by Ron Finnigan, CFICE Volunteer

Convivium Cohousing is a new housing project that explores innovative housing for older adults in Old Ottawa East.

A map of Old Ottawa East.

A map of Old Ottawa East.

Lynne Markell, the Chair of the non-profit organization, Convivium Cohousing for Seniors Incorporated, summarized the housing project with the statement: “You know how they talk about aging in place. We’re talking about aging in community.”

The proposed housing project could be located in the new Greystone Village on the former Oblate lands on Main Street; however other sites will be considered if that option does not work out.

This cohousing project is unique because of the participation of the residents. A maximum of 50 people, aged 55 or older, would be housed in 30 to 40 units ranging from bachelors to two-bedroom apartments in a three to four storey apartment building. Residents would contribute to the community by participating in the running of the cohousing project and assisting in the maintenance and upkeep through volunteering and community living. Residents will be encouraged to share tools, bikes, books and other resources, including their own skills, in making the project a community of seniors who know each other well and look after each other.

Convivium Cohousing got its start about six years ago with a different group of people, but when the future resident of the Ottawa East project decided to form an organization in March 2016 , they were given permission to use the name and changed it to “Convivium Cohousing for Seniors” when they incorporated as a non-profit. Six members of the previous group are also involved.

The overall project was conceived and helped by Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE), Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and Carleton’s Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) project. It has also received financial support from the Community Foundation of Ottawa.

Convivium currently has 50 members and is not accepting new applications for membership at this time. The group meets on a regular basis to propose and discuss ideas for the project, and to keep the membership informed about any new developments.

There is no legal structure for cohousing in Canada, although cohousing communities use a variety of legal structures to achieve their goals. Convivium’s Finance and Ownership Committee has been considering a hybrid model for the project that would allow a combination of ownership and rental units through an equity co-operative model.

Monthly costs for living in the project have not yet been established, but affordability is a key goal. Residents would be active seniors who are comfortable with independent living and are willing to provide “co-care” to minimize the expense of hiring people to provide services that they can provide for their neighbours.

Convivium still faces numerous challenges, but has established a strong grassroots organization to get the project started. As Lynne stated: “We understand that most cohousing groups take some four years before they can move in and we have accomplished a lot already. Seniors want an alternative to retirement homes and living in their own private homes and we are going to create it.”

For more information about the Convivium Cohousing project, or to be put on the waiting list for membership in Convivium Cohousing, please contact