Tomo on Main

Co-housing lite: An innovative project offers a potential solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis.

Image credit: Take Root/MA+HG Architects

Can we design multi-family housing to nurture strong, supportive social relationships? Hundreds of hours of research led us to believe the answer is Yes. Tomo House brings this idea to life.

Tomo House has brought Happy Cities into a unique collaboration with an enlightened developer (Take Root), a creative design team (Lanefab and MA+HG Architects), and a group of future residents determined to find an affordable, pragmatic path to cohousing (Our Urban Village).

Our Urban Village is a group of families who wanted the benefits of cohousing without the crippling financial and time burdens that often come with traditional cohousing approaches. They invented a phrase, “cohousing lite,” to describe their dream. Happy Cities introduced the group to Take Root, who offered to help make that dream a reality.

Tomo, which stands for “together + more,” 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 new 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.

The project embodies lessons from hundreds of hours of Happy Cities research on wellbeing in multi-unit housing. Thus, it combines a small cluster of homes with indoor and outdoor social spaces. It will house 12 families under one roof, with a common house and courtyard. It reduced parking burden, because folks who share don’t own as many cars. It reflects the aspirations of a deeply committed community of future residents. And it will offer deep affordability to a third of those residents, through reduced purchase price or guaranteed rental rates, over the long term.

Tomo House offers a new housing choice—in its building form, tenure model, and social wellbeing approach—that we think is scalable and reproducible in many neighbourhoods.

Learning from community housing movements:

Feeling connected to our communities, neighbours, and friends is fundamental to people’s wellbeing. The homes that we live in should reflect this. To support the health and happiness of its future residents, Tomo House draws inspiration from community housing models, like cohousing and co-operative housing.

Tomo Spaces and Happy Cities interviewed people from several local cohousing and co-op buildings to hear from their own residents’ point of view what makes them such wonderful places to live. Based on our learnings, we co-authored four stories, each unpacking design and programming strategies that can help transform seemingly mundane spaces—lobbies, hallways, and parking lots—into places that foster social connection. Through the series, we show easy and rewarding it can be to transform any multi-unit building into a place where people know and support their neighbours.

We invite you to explore the learnings below:

More stories about Tomo House:

Developer Mark Shieh sees shared living spaces as a way to bring fractured communities together. The Globe and Mail

What’s behind the Tomo name of a new cohousing project? Georgia Straight

Making connections. The Globe and Mail

Cohousing project in Vancouver. Daily Hive

Cohousing Lite enters the Vancouver housing lexicon. The Courier

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