Tomo House is a cohousing project for middle-income families. Tomo stands for “together + more,” a name that reflects the project’s guiding ideals. As housing prices rise faster than income, many families cannot afford traditional single-family homes. They are looking for more housing choices somewhere between single-family homes and high-rise condos. We believe that affordability, sociability, and sustainability goals are interconnected and work together in a virtuous cycle.
Cohousing describes an intentional community centred around social connectedness in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their housing. Despite its many affordable advantages, the typical cohousing process has many barriers, including escalating land bids, long development timeline, and considerable expertise and time commitment. Cohousers report that 70 to 80% of groups that start projects are unable to overcome these barriers and complete them.
Tomo and Our Urban Village, a Vancouver-based cohousing group, are working together to pioneer a more streamlined approach called “Cohousing Lite.” Our goal is to make cohousing development easier for members, deliver homes faster, and with less risk.
Happy City has gathered evidence on the relationship between design and social connections in multi-family housing. Building on this work, Tomo applies the following design guidelines for sociability:
- Keep social group size smaller. Clusters of housing featuring 8 to 15 units in walkable, transit-served neighbourhoods are ideal to nurture supportive social connections.
- Invite people to do things together. When people self-organize to work on causes that are bigger than themselves, they feel happier and more connected to each other.
- Enable a social gradient from public to private spaces. Delineating a gradient of communal, family, and personal spaces provide sense of control, invites participation, and creates feeling of safety.
- Spark frequent informal encounters. Positive relationships need purposeful social contact; but informal, unscheduled encounters with neighbours nurture trust and belonging.
- Integrate with nature. People’s ability to experience nature with all their senses is strongly linked to positive relationships and social trust.
- Lengthen housing tenure. Residents who are able to live in the same place longer, either as owners or renters, build stronger bonds of trust and social connection.
Passive House is one of the leading global standards for energy efficient buildings. The appeal of this approach is its simplicity: a super-insulated structure with careful use of high performance windows. It reduces the building’s energy consumption to virtually zero and minimizes long-term maintenance costs by eliminating complex active mechanical systems.