What’s behind the Tomo name of a new Vancouver cohousing project

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      On February 1, the public will get a chance to learn more about a new cohousing project in Vancouver.

      It’s called the Tomo House, and it’s proposed to be developed at the southwest corner of Main Street and Ontario Place.

      Tomo stands for ‘together more’, and according to the developer working with a group of future residents, the concept behind the project is really simple.

      “The idea is that we are more when we are together,” Leslie Shieh told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Shieh is with Tomo Spaces Inc., owner and developer of the property at 5809-5811 Main Street, where a 3.5-storey cohousing building is proposed to be built.

      Tomo Spaces Inc. is working with Our Urban Village, whose members will be the future owners of the housing units.

      Cohousing is a housing model that started in Denmark, in which future neighbours plan and manage a multi-family development that they will share.

      Under this model, residents own their respective units, and share common facilities.

      James Chamberlain is a member of the Our Urban Village cohousing group, and he noted that the project is a variation of the traditional cohousing model.

      In conventional cohousing projects, future neighbours purchase the land and manage the development of the residential building, taking all the risks.

      With Tomo House, it’s a ‘cohousing lite’ approach, wherein the cohousing group enters into a partnership with a developer that owns the land and will be in charge of the development. The residents will purchase their homes.

      It may be a derivative of the traditional model, but Tomo House embodies the community spirit embodied in cohousing.

      “We make all our decisions by consensus,” Chamberlain explained in a phone interview with the Straight. “And we’re a multi-generational community, and we are friends basically before we move in, right? We built relationships over three years or four years before we move in. So unlike a traditional strata building where you just move in and you have no idea who your neighbours will be or if it’s going to work … our concept is all about community.”

      The proposed Tomo cohousing project will have 12 residential units.
      Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio

      Tomo House is proposed to have 12 units, and according to Chamberlain, the project aims to demonstrate that the goals of affordability, sustainability, and sociability are interconnected.

      “The young families and the seniors are generally the ones who can least afford the city, and so we’re trying to make decisions that enhance affordability for everyone,” Chamberlain said. “So one thing we’ve done that the other cohousing communities have not done is we’ve agreed to as a community … to car sharing for all the parking spaces, so no one’s going to own their own individual vehicle. And we’re not building an underground parkade, so that saves a lot of money for every family. We want to have a lighter environmental footprint, so that’s one decision that we’ve made.”

      “Another decision that we recently made through the development process with the developer was that no one will have laundry in their units, so we’re doing shared laundry for all the units,” Chamberlain added.

      Tomo House is proposed to be designed by the Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio on passive house standards, which means that it will feature superior insulation to cut down on energy consumption, and ultimately, utility bills for residents.

      Once developed, Tomo House will be the third cohousing site in Vancouver.

      The February 1 open house event for Tomo House will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Baha'i Centre (5880 Main Street).