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Could cohousing be an option in Nova Scotia?

From left: Cate, Leon and son Dylan de Vreede. Cate and Leon hope to develop a co-housing project for Bridgewater.
Cate de Vreede, left, and Leon de Vreede, right, are the equity partners and founding members of Treehouse Village Ecohousing, a cohousing project in Bridgewater. Their son, Dylan, is pictured centre. - Contributed

'We need to diversify'

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first part of a series profiling housing needs across the South Shore. Join us as we take an in-depth look into this issue


Cate and Leon de Vreede have always been interested in sustainable, environmentally-friendly housing options.

Now, they are the equity partners working towards opening Bridgewater’s first ever cohousing project, Treehouse Village Ecohousing.

“It’s working all across the world and there are 13 completed cohousings in Canada,” said Cate, adding that the town was an ideal location for the project.

“It’s becoming known for its sustainability and energy efficiency work and I think that some form of more sustainable housing is something that would complement those efforts really well.”

The project could consist of 25 to 30 units, where members would share common space, appliances and more in a community setting.

Over 20 households have signed up since the public launch in September 2018.

“What we’ve seen since we’ve launched this idea is that there’s a real appetite for it here,” she said.

But there’s also a sustainability aspect to the project. The community could also share things like solar panels and heat pumps to reduce energy costs.

“From the initial price tag it’s not going to look like affordable housing,” Cate explained.

 “However, what we’ve seen and what we’ve heard from other cohousing communities is that the savings are long-term. We hope, for example, that these homes are so energy efficient our power bills will be less than $100 in a year.”

She added that although cohousing was not the silver bullet solution for affordable housing, it was one of many options which could solve the issue.

“We need to diversify what we have for housing in Nova Scotia,” said Cate.

The initial share cost is $1,000 to join but would grow with the cost of development.

In terms of the next steps, the project currently has an accepted offer on a 16-acre piece of land, contingent on a feasibility survey.

If the land is deemed appropriate, the group would then hire architects and builders to complete the development using funds put forward by the members.

“All of the money you contribute goes towards your down payment and in the end, you’d buy your home,” said Cate.

“I think with the rise in popularity of cohousing, it does offer people an alternate where they can have more in their neighbourhood than they would otherwise be able to afford.”

The feasibility study is expected to be completed by the end of June.

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