Construction starts on Nova Scotia's first co-housing project

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A groundbreaking ceremony for Treehouse Village was held in Bridgewater, N.S., on Saturday. (Shirley Robb - image credit)
A groundbreaking ceremony for Treehouse Village was held in Bridgewater, N.S., on Saturday. (Shirley Robb - image credit)

A $12-million co-housing project in Nova Scotia that's been a decade in the making is a step closer to completion following a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday.

About 30 people gathered at the site on Pearl Street in Bridgewater, N.S., for the event.

Treehouse Village is expected to be completed by fall 2022 and will include 30 private dwellings, a community centre and shared amenities on a 15-acre lot. It claims to be the first co-housing development in Atlantic Canada.

The project was conceived by Cate and Leon de Vreede a decade ago, when they realized there were no co-housing developments in Nova Scotia or the region.

"So we figured if we wanted to live in co-housing and stay in Nova Scotia, we would have to try to kind of make it happen," said Cate de Vreede.

According to de Vreede, co-housing means there are private homes on one property with shared amenities.

Shirley Robb
Shirley Robb

The Treehouse Village project, like most similar projects in Canada, is legally classified as a condominium, but other legal models can be used for co-housing, de Vreede said.

She said the core values of Treehouse Village are "living lightly on the earth," and living collectively as neighbours in homes that are comfortable and safe.

Homes in the community will be passive house certified, meaning they will have high degrees of energy efficiency.

De Vreede said the heating bill for each home should be about $100 annually.

In order to minimize the impact on the ecology of the area, de Vreede said most of the development will be clustered in five acres at one end of the compound and the remaining ten acres will be left forested.

The price range of the units in the development range between $300,000 to $500,000. Only six of the 30 homes are still available and they are all at the higher end of the price range.

Treehouse Village
Treehouse Village

Invested members include people from across Nova Scotia and Canada, and even as far away as the United Kingdom.

According to de Vreede, the cost of the units is on par with other new construction in the area and any premium increase caused by making the units energy efficient is offset by the lower energy costs.

De Vreede said the fact that the development includes shared facilities, such as guest rooms and play areas, means many buyers simply don't need the larger units.

"Most people are purchasing more modestly-sized homes, because we've put guest rooms in our common house. So people don't need that extra bedroom for company," she said.

"We can share some of those things. And it's an alternative to these consumptive patterns that we see that really are unsustainable."

Shirley Robb
Shirley Robb

De Vreede said she hopes Treehouse Village helps the co-housing concept gain traction in Nova Scotia.

"It's all about choice," she said.

"Co-housing disproportionately attracts introverts, actually, which is kind of counter to what a lot of people might think, because there is such a clear delineation between private space and common space."

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