There will always be wine…

… but Wine on the Porch is putting the cork back in the bottle.

We gave it three years. We talked with our friends, held information sessions, organized a well attended workshop and got enough media attention to make the Raving Orange Man jealous… and at the end of all that, having met hundreds and engaged with dozens of wonderful people, the four of us who began this journey find ourselves on our own again.

We enjoyed the process thoroughly. Each new conversation informed our vision and helped clarify our goals. The people who gave their time to meet with us over plans and potlucks enriched our lives with their varied experiences and perspectives. Among them we found some lasting friendships.

But…

In a nutshell, the people who most wanted to do this couldn’t afford it, and many of those who could afford it didn’t wanna do it. That’s much too simplistic, of course, but there’s a kernel of truth to it. When you come at cohousing from a position of wealth, you’re more likely to look on it as a sacrifice.

The very things things we chose as our key benefits, like promoting community through a shared kitchen, were often seen as drawbacks. We didn’t see it as giving anything up, but rather as gaining: gaining friends to cook and bake with, gaining the freedom not to cook every day, having a broader repertoire of recipes and skills…. But this perspective was shared only rarely.

Cost became an increasingly difficult issue. Part of that was because of choices we made, for example wanting to be in Toronto on a subway line. Part of it was the wild escalation of Toronto real estate over the past few years, and the construction boom that elevates Toronto construction costs, we’re told, 30 percent above other parts of Ontario.

Some costs are added because of zoning bylaws that don’t recognize cohousing, and specifically seniors cohousing, as a valid development type. From a policy standpoint, city planners and politicians love what we were trying to do, but the zoning bylaw won’t permit it without a variance — a procedure that can add $100,000 or more, and a year or longer.

Our last straw came in late January.

We had gathered five potential partners, two couples and three singles, who had chosen to become Associate Members and engage in a five-session process leading toward full membership.

Two days before our first meeting, we had a call from our architect. As of January 1, he told us, a new regulation had come into force, putting us under the jurisdiction of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. (Yes, it turns out we really are on a ravine.)

In other words, we would now need a sign-off from the Conservation Authority even before we could talk to the city. ‘This is brand new so we don’t really know what it means yet,’ our architect told us, ‘but for planning purposes you should probably add, oh, $40,000 and another six months.’

We think the new regulation is probably good policy, but for us it was crippling. Some associate members were concerned about the additional cost. Some were concerned about the extended timeline. And all were daunted by the new uncertainty. One by one, with regret, they withdrew. (We get the very best break-up notes!)

The four of us took some time to reflect. We set aside March 1 to consider next steps. And we decided that we would call it a day.

We continue to believe that what we were proposing is a good option for seniors housing and that it will come in time, but we are at peace with the fact that, here and now, we will not be the ones to build it.

We have some sadness about the end of this vision, of course, but we have no regrets. It’s been a great experience.

This blog will remain for whatever help it may be to others, but it will be updated only rarely (if at all).

For those who are interested in other developments in cohousing, I’ll continue to aggregate news and information over on our Facebook page.

One final thought that we take some comfort in.

Our primary motivation through all this has been the desire to create a robust and resilient community. But community, in the final analysis, is not dependent on architecture. Yes, some forms of architecture facilitate community and some detract from it. But ultimately, the quality of your community depends on the dedication you put into it nurturing and sustaining it.

We’ll carry that thought with us to the next step, where ever it turns out to be.

Thanks for being part of this journey with us and for the many words of encouragement you’ve shared. We’re not sure where the next porch is, but there will always be wine.

Cheers!

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11 thoughts on “There will always be wine…”

  1. Doug, I read with some sadness your ‘final’ blog. Even though timing prevented us from the associate membership meetings, I kept abreast of your developments. The vision of your group really spoke to the best in us and hopefully there will be a way for this to be a reality in the not too distant future, even if in a slightly different format. A toast to you and everyone else in your group for what you were trying to do and the immense energy you devoted to it. Happy spring and a lazy summer! Cheers, Marjorie

    On Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 10:15 AM Wine on the Porch wrote:

    > Doug Tindal posted: ” … but Wine on the Porch is putting the cork back > in the bottle. We gave it three years. We talked with our friends, held > information sessions, organized a well attended workshop and got enough > media attention to make the Raving Orange Man jealous…” >

  2. I was so sad to hear this news and the continual waterfall of obstacles your group faced. I was encouraged to hear how you met them one by one but then unfortunately there came a point when it sounded like it became too much.
    I saw your group as being on the leading edge. Unfortunately the leading edge can often be the bleeding edge. And you only have so much blood…
    I am currently in a cohousing co-owner situation but with younger people. It has its challenges but the benefits outweigh the challenges by far. I would ideally love to have a couple more people in the group that are my age but so far that dream has not materialized.
    It does take a certain type of community mind set and a certain personality type for this type of living situation to work well. But those do exist. Unfortunately I find many people in my generation (our generation) pretty set in their living lifestyles. The younger people are more open to sharing space. Of course living with 2 different generations brings more complexities but also more robustness and energy. Many hands make work so much lighter and more time for wine.

    I am interested in working with a developer here who specializes in building co-housing. She has been doing it for over 20 years and knows the ins and outs of what cohousing entails. Our house just happens to be a very unique large house on a large property that can accommodate a lot of people and has multiple rooms and decks for privacy but it would be great to be able to design it from scratch so as to accommodate a few more ideals that would assist living in a cohousing situation.
    Should you ever find yourself in Victoria BC please don’t hesitate to visit.

    I thank you for all your sharing and for what you have endeavoured to set out to do.
    Are you pretty committed to Toronto?

    Renate

  3. I was so sad to hear this news and the continual waterfall of obstacles your group faced. I was encouraged to hear how you met them one by one but then unfortunately there came a point when it sounded like it became too much.
    I saw your group as being on the leading edge. Unfortunately the leading edge can often be the bleeding edge. And you only have so much blood…

    I am currently in a cohousing co-owner situation but with younger people. It has some small challenges but the benefits outweigh the challenges by far. I would ideally love to have a couple more people in the group that are my age but so far that dream has not materialized.
    It does take a certain type of community mind set and a certain personality type for this type of living situation to work well. But those do exist. Unfortunately I find many people in my generation (our generation) pretty set in their living lifestyles. The younger people are more open to sharing space. Of course living with 2 different generations brings more complexities but also more robustness and energy. Many hands make work so much lighter and more time for wine.
    The regulations and zoning and insurance is so frustrating though – I agree. This type of co-owned, co-lived housing doesn’t fit the status quo model and we always seem to be slotted into something we’re not and then having to pay extra for that. Infuriating and exhausting!
    There are so many benefits to this model – it saddens me that people, regulators, investors etc. see it as model that’s half empty rather than half full.
    All the best in future endeavours

  4. Doug,
    Sorry to hear the news but having heard you and your wife speak a few times, I have great faith that you’ll come up with something even better from this experience. Keep us posted!

    A question…. I understand that anyone making changes to a ravine property has always has to get approval from the conservation authority. New restrictions added in January?

    Thanks!
    nm

    1. We didn’t get that far into it, Nancie, so I can’t add much. I think the sequencing at least was new, clarifying that the conservation area has the first say; beyond that I’m not sure what the changes were.

  5. Hi Doug

    Sorry to hear that you are corking the bottle for now.

    I have been involved in Concorde Cohousing in Ottawa and I started to try to meet with City of Ottawa Managers to help them understand what cohousing is and advocate for rule and zoning changes to facilitate cohousing. It is a long range goal but BC while facing challenges with escalating prices, cost and other issues have started to simply some of the rules.

    What do you think we should advocate for in terms of policy changes to make cohousing and co-housing easier?

    1. Three things that come to mind immediately, given that the project meets certain criteria, are increased density, reduced parking requirements and reduced development charges.

  6. Doug! You fought the good fight! And your generosity in sharing has been stellar! I would love to live with you in a co-housing situation….unfortunately, Ottawa is home and we wouldn’t have enough dough for Toronto anyway. Thanks muchly. Warm regards,
    Erin

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