4) LaSalle-Gardens Cohousing Mutual-Aid

COMMUNITY ECONOMY, 'indigenous' (Latin = 'self-generating') multidisciplinary mutual-aid of multihome dwellings & inclusive accounting of the 'string-shell' within the diverse specialized Production Societies.  Home of Dialogue, LaSalle-Gardens Mutual Aid committee YouTube video 12 minutes 40 seconds Douglas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7A7JhkMO10&feature=relmfu

C.U.R.E. (Community University Research Exchange) Research Essay

Cohousing in the LaSalle Gardens Community

By: Tegan Wiebe

December 1, 2011


Cohousing is defined by the Canadian Cohousing Network as a “neighbourhood that combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living,” (1). There are many features to cohousing that make it advantageous to the community of people living therein. This research paper focuses on a specific, emerging, cohousing community in Montreal named LaSalle Gardens. This research is a case study done in LaSalle Gardens of the spaces and identities created within the community and how they benefit and affect the residents. It explores how the resources of LaSalle Gardens and the advantages of cohousing can be combined to improve the space and community living.

LaSalle Gardens as a cohousing community:

Cohousing is characterized by five main features, (3):

1.     Participation of residents in the planning process

2.     Pedestrian-oriented housing layout

3.      Private homes supplemented by common facilities

4.     Resident management  

5.     Non-hierarchical decision-making of community members

While LaSalle Gardens has the layout of a cohousing community, it lacks the characteristics of resident-oriented involvement and decision-making. The community has ample communal spaces and facilities such as parks, sporting facilities, a pool, a garden, and a recently implemented community meeting space called Home of Dialogue. The space is pedestrian-oriented in the sense that it has the same population density of most neighbourhoods, but one-third of the street space. But, the community is not totally a cohousing one because the spaces of LaSalle Gardens are owned by Turret Immeubles Inc., and not by the residents. There is also no structured communal decision-making or responsibility. However, the Gardens are emerging as a cohousing community as residents take steps towards sharing resources and developing community involvement.

History of LaSalle Gardens:

The cohousing trend began in Denmark in 1988 before it became popular in other parts of the world, (3). LaSalle Gardens was not intentionally designed as a cohousing community originally. However, LaSalle Gardens was built long before in 1955, modeled after Frederick Olmstead’s Garden City concept.  The LaSalle Gardens Mutual Aid Committee is now considering it in terms of modeled after the indigenous longhouse heritage.

Longhouses were used by the Iroquois tribes in Canada before European colonization took place. Each one was made of tree branches and bark, and could be up to 60 meters long, (4). These houses were usually shared among related family. The spaces created in these communities were both communal and private, with private dwellings on the outer part of the longhouse, and communal fire and cooking space in the middle. This setup allowed families to share services and resources, while still maintaining their privacy.  The Iroquois made efficient use of their space to have as many family members as possible in the longhouse. This way, residents of the longhouse could share food, fur, skills, and inter-generational education, (4).

LaSalle Gardens replicates the longhouse heritage with its open internal communal spaces and its outer boundary of housing. Therefore, even though LaSalle Gardens was not originally intended to be a cohousing community in its formal definition, it is physically laid out as one, creating space for communal activity. With further intentionality of shared resources, skills, and education, the residents of LaSalle Gardens could benefit from the many advantages of cohousing communities.

Advantages of Cohousing:

The advantages of cohousing can be broken down into three categories of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental, (3). All three are important in shaping the spaces and identities within a community.

Social sustainability is when all generations are given equal access to social resources such as cultures, other generations, and social support, (3). In cohousing communities, the shared access to resources gives people the opportunity to learn both cross-culturally and multi-generationally. This kind of interaction between people shapes their identities, as they become a part of something, and are involved in both giving and receiving resources. Social support, such as help with child care or emotional counsel, bonds people together to give them a sense of belonging. The communal space created within a cohousing community gives people the opportunity to make these social connections. This allows people to identify with an entire group of people, and develop standards and expectations for themselves and their community.

The second type of sustainability considered in a cohousing community is economic. This is seen in the sharing of costs in bulk items, as well as the exchange of goods and services between community members that keeps the economic flow within the community, (3).  A part of identity is recognizing what goods and services one has to offer, (health care or education for example). Communal space allows people to exchange ideas and thoughts around their identity with other people so that the goods and services can be exchanged where needed. Going beyond formal job descriptions and employment relations allows people to expand their identity of the way in which they contribute to their society. It creates more natural human bonding that results in sharing rather than forced economic dependency. Also, in this scenario, monetary spending and profit becomes localized, and all cohousing members can benefit from financial stability, (3).

The third type of sustainability in cohousing communities is environmental. Studies have shown that cohousing units take one-third the cost to build and operate in comparison with regular housing, (4). This is because heating, maintenance costs, and wall divides are shared. This also means that the cost of housing itself is affordable. Initiatives in any given community such as carpooling, solar panel energy, or composting can also contribute to the environmental friendliness of cohousing. Again, these initiatives are made easier by the access to communal space of all community members, and the interaction this allows to promote collaboration on projects.

Therefore, there are many benefits to cohousing communities. The purpose of this research is to discover the benefits of which LaSalle Gardens takes advantage, and what could be improved. In order to discover how the community already exploits the advantages of cohousing, surveys were conducted with residents about their experiences living in LaSalle Gardens.

The survey:

            The survey (see Appendix I in English and II in French), was conducted in an interview format with fifteen residents in LaSalle Gardens. The questions were meant to accomplish three objectives: gain an idea of the demographic of the community, discover what resources are being used that are associated with the benefits of cohousing, and see how LaSalle Gardens could be improved to gain more of these benefits.

            The first section of the survey answers the questions of the demographic. The questions ask about age, employment, origins, and family. The demographic of the community is important, as it uncovers both cross-cultural and multi-generational potentials. This part of the research was meant to survey the social sustainability of LaSalle Gardens.

            The second section of this survey contains frequency questions that were meant to interpret how well the spaces and resources of LaSalle Gardens are utilized. LaSalle Gardens has beautiful communal spaces including a playground, tennis and basketball courts, a soccer field, a pool, and a large garden. These spaces are essential in constructing the social sustainability that is a part of cohousing communities. Playgrounds and sporting facilities are great meeting places for members to share interests. The outdoor spaces of bonding create opportunities for people to collaborate, share, and learn, and develop the role of a community as a support system.

            The third section of the survey has open questions meant to discover what goods and services residents in LaSalle gardens offer to or request from other residents, as well as what residents enjoy about living in the community, and how it could be improved. Sharing each other’s skills and services is an integral part of the social and economic sustainability of a cohousing community. Discovering people’s skills not only opens opportunities for people to become more integrated into their community (and receive the support that comes with that), but also keeps money within the community to stabilize its economy, (3).

            The last two questions of the survey deal specifically with the potential trade of goods and services within the community. LaSalle Gardens Mutual Aid Committee is currently in the process of developing a Community Human Resource Catalogue, meant to network people within LaSalle Gardens so that they may exchange their goods and services for credits online (called “ratios”). These ratios may be used to purchase other goods or services, or potentially earn voting privileges as LaSalle Gardens attempts to build more structured initiatives that will involve resident participation. As LaSalle Gardens Mutual Aid Committee works to implement more environmental action such as composting and bio-toilets, this Web Catalogue could bring people together who are passionate about these environmental issues. Residents’ various skills and educations can also be used for things like building repair, child care, information sessions, and more.

            In conclusion, fifteen people were interviewed, though not all of them answered every question. They were given the purpose of the research and its potential benefits before the 20 questions were posed. Answers remained anonymous and results were only used in a statistical analysis.

Survey Results:

            In the first section of the survey, it was found that the demographic of the community had a wide range. Of the fifteen surveyed, ages ranged from 19 to 85, and nearly all had immigrated to Montreal (anywhere from India to Cuba). First languages spoken were French, English, Ukrainian, Hindi, Spanish, and multiple others. The survey itself had to be translated in many cases. Employment varied, though half of those surveyed were either retired or unemployed, and roughly the same number were without children at home. The length of time lived in LaSalle Gardens also varied widely from six months to 50 years.

            In the second section of the survey where the frequency questions were asked, it was found that there was fairly good use of the communal green space and resources, especially among children. However, when asked how often the survey participant made use of their neighbours’ services, or offered their own services to their neighbours, nearly all answers were “never” or “rarely”, with only three people answering “more than once a week”.

            Despite rare offering or accepting of services from neighbours, 60 percent of participants agreed that the exchange of services on the online Community Human Resource Catalogue would be beneficial to them. The same people added that they would be willing to contribute to the catalogue given the opportunity.

            The rest of the open questions in the third section of the survey revealed that there is little communal gathering amongst neighbours. Seventy-five percent of people do not plant in the community garden as a result of having their own personal garden, and are not a part of any community clubs or societies, mostly as a result of not knowing of any. Nearly 90 percent do not meet with other neighbours to discuss community rules, projects, or decisions. This is also a result of many people not knowing of any opportunities to contribute.

            In the third section, the benefits of living in LaSalle Gardens were described as: available and ample green space and resources (five people), a sense of community (four people), low rent costs (three people), and accessibility to public transit (three people). The most common thing that people felt could be improved in the community was the integrity and attitude of community members. Eight people agreed that drug use, vandalism, and theft were problems within the area. Three people thought there should be more sharing and meetings between people to create a community atmosphere, and four more said LaSalle Gardens could be cleaner or more appealing.

Survey Discussion:

            The results of the survey can be used, in combination with the researched advantages of cohousing, to determine the areas in which LaSalle Gardens is thriving and where it could be improved. Using the social, economic, and environmental sustainability assets of cohousing, LaSalle Gardens can be evaluated as a community that is approaching a cohousing environment and could potentially reap more benefits from that type of society. Given that LaSalle Gardens is already structurally set up as a cohousing community, its resources and residents can be used to better exploit the benefits of sustainability.

            It is clear from the first section of the survey that LaSalle Gardens has a very broad demographic of people ranging in age, culture, and identity. This broad demographic is a key component of social sustainability, as seen in the “Advantages of Cohousing” section. This community is already well suited to share ranges of experience and education, as in the indigenous longhouse community after which LaSalle Gardens was modeled.  Currently there are many extended, related families living in the community that already share meals and services with one another, as was traditional in the longhouse community as well. However, this sharing and social sustainability could be even further improved with intentional efforts of families and individuals to broaden their range of socialization. With varying languages, cultures, and histories amongst different families in the community, intentionally sharing backgrounds can teach members important steps in overcoming cross-cultural barriers. With a community organization or group in place designated to bring people together, there could be gathering for multi-cultural evenings of shared food, information seminars by professionals already living in the area, or tutoring sessions between students. With the communal space already available for meeting, and varying identities within the community, just intentional gathering can enhance social sustainability.

            The number of services people have to offer within the community also aids this social sustainability. During the interview process it was apparent that there were many skills within the community, and these were often shared with the extended family, and sometimes neighbours. People already use services from neighbours like getting groceries carried, internet service, or rides. The services that people answered they were willing to offer nearly quadrupled the number in the list of services used. Among some services people said they could potentially offer were gardening, dog-walking, lifeguarding, translation, carpentry, painting, child care, and Judo training. With the proper means to distribute people’s availabilities, both the economic and social sustainability of the community could thrive. The Community Human Resource Catalogue will be a great resource for people to contribute to their society and also have their needs met. This Catalogue could transform the entire identity of the community as one that is supportive to every individual. The steps taken to implement this Catalogue in LaSalle Gardens are good ones to provide the resources for people to become involved in community, potentially increasing social bonding and support.

            There is also potential in LaSalle Gardens for groups or societies to band together to pursue projects or community initiatives. Already, some people are or have been involved in the banning of pesticides, the building of an ergonomic bicycle, composting initiatives, and a bio toilet prototype. However, nearly 90 percent of the people interviewed said they did not know how to get involved, and were not aware of any opportunities to contribute to their community. With scheduled community meetings and designated facilities for gathering about community issues, LaSalle Gardens may be able to increase participation in its already valuable objectives. The Home of Dialogue at 9662 Rue Jean-Milot has already been implemented to meet this facility need, and is being designated as a place for research, conflict resolution, and meetings. With a space for gathering, people are able to exchange ideas to enhance not only the environmental sustainability of the place they live, but also the social sustainability of people striving towards a common goal.  


            In conclusion, LaSalle Gardens has the structural setup for a cohousing community, modeled after the indigenous longhouse heritage. However, there is still room for people to explore further the social, economic, and environmental benefits of the original longhouse culture. Given the benefits of cohousing communities, and interviews within the community, one can see the potential of this specific community and make steps towards taking advantage of all possible benefits. These benefits can come in the form of emotional support, financial aid, multi-generational and cross-cultural education, and others. Experimenting with more intentional groups and meetings, and the use of the Home of Dialogue and Community Human Resource Catalogue, can give LaSalle Gardens the opportunity to reach its full potential as a community.

About the author:

My name is Tegan Wiebe and I am currently a building engineering student at Concordia University. This research project was done as credit for a human geography course that discussed place, space, and identity. I thought that LaSalle Gardens would be a great place to bring together aspects of space and identity with engineering components of structural space. Housing has interested me since a trip to some historical ruins in Norway when I was eight. Since then I have experimented with office design on AutoCAD, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Jordan, and gotten a gold medal at the Canada Wide Science Fair for a project on radon-prevention in home basements. I plan to continue to pursue community and home improvement as I follow up on my studies. This research has provided great insight into neighbourhood layout design and people’s perspective of community that I feel will be helpful to my future career.

*If you have questions about this research paper please feel free to contact Tegan Wiebe at tegan.wiebe@gmail.com


1.     Cohousing & Sustainability, (2004). Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Canadian Cohousing Network Web site: http://www.cohousing.ca/sustain.htm

2.     Jack, D. (2010). Nuclear War & Detached Housing. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from Indigene Community Web site: https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/relational-economy/7-nuclear-war-detached-housing

3.     Milman, D. (2004). History of Cohousing: Where it all began: Cohousing in Denmark. Retrieved November 10, 2011, from Canadian Cohousing Network Web site: http://www.cohousing.ca/history.htm

4.     Native American Houses. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Native Languages of the Americas Web site: http://www.native-languages.org/houses.htm

Appendix I


This survey is being conducted by a Concordia University student who is researching the benefits of a cohousing community. A cohousing community is defined by the Canadian Cohousing Network as “a neighbourhood that combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living”. Previous studies have indicated that cohousing provides a sense of community that aids in learning, child-care, and collaboration of skills. This study is taking place in LaSalle Gardens through the efforts of a resident based Mutual-Aid Committee to discover how well this community values human capacities and takes advantage of space, resources, and community services within the community. There are three sections and all individual answers are made without disclosure and kept anonymous.  Only compiled (aggregated) statistics are reported back to the Mutual-Aid Committee and the course professor.

Personal information

1.     What is your age?  _____________

2.     Where are you from (where did you grow up)__________________________________________________________

3.     Are you employed? If so, what is your job? __________________________________________________________

4.     How long have you lived in Lasalle Gardens? ___________________________

5.     Do you have any children living with you? How many? ___________________________

Community Questions (please circle a response)

How often:

1.     Do you meet with neighbours for meals ?

Never     Rarely     1-2 times/month     About once/week                 More than once/week

2.     Do your children (if any) use communal green space (park, pool, soccer field, etc)?

Never     Rarely     1-2 times/month     About once/week                 More than once/week

3.     Do you use communal green space (park, pool, soccer field, etc)?

Never     Rarely     1-2 times/month     About once/week                 More than once/week

4.     Do you request services/materials from neighbours (example: use of car, buying groceries, child care)?

Never     Rarely     1-2 times/month     About once/week                 More than once/week

5.     Do you offer services/materials to neighbours (example: use of car, buying groceries, child care)?

Never     Rarely     1-2 times/month     About once/week                 More than once/week

Community Questions

1.     Do you plant in the community garden? If not, why?

2.     Are you a part of any weekly or monthly clubs or societies within your community (such as book clubs, sports leagues, etc.)? If so, what are they? If not, why?

3.     Do you meet with community members to discus community projects, or community rules? If so, how often? If not, why?

4.     If you have children, are they a part of the after school programs held in the pool building, September through June? If not, why?

5.     Do you offer the community any services or goods? If so, what?

6.      How are you involved in making decisions within the Lasalle Gardens community?

7.      Would you contribute skills or goods to an online web-based Community Human Resource Catalogue (a database of community skills and resources to be shared within the community)?

8.     How do you benefit from living in this community? How could it be improved?

9.     Would you or family members benefit from earning community credits (called ‘ratios’) at market rates in exchange for your goods and services? (These credits could be used to use others’ goods and services and earn voting privileges within the community).

10.  Have you had contact with the LaSalle-Gardens’ Mutual Aid Committee through its Home of Dialogue/Maison de dialogue, 9662 Jean-Milot LaSalle? Would you like to get involved?

Maison de dialogue, Comité d'entraide Jardins LaSalle

Home of Dialogue, LaSalle Gardens Mutual Aid Committee

9662 rue Jean-Milot,  (> rue Bergevin), LaSalle, H8R 1X9, 514-365-9594

douglasf.jack@gmail.com    www.indigenecommunity.info

Appendix II


Ce sondage est lancé par une étudiante de l’Université Concordia faisant une étude sur les bénéfices et avantages des cohabitats communautaires. Selon la définition du Réseau Canadien de cohabitats, un cohabitât communautaire est « un regroupement de voisins qui associe l’autonomie des maisons privées avec les avantages de la vie communautaire et du partage des ressources.» Des études précédentes ont indiqué que les cohabitations amènent un sens de communauté qui aide à apprendre, s’occuper des enfants et à développer des aptitudes de collaboration. Cette étude-ci prend place dans les Jardins communautaires de Lasalle, avec la collaboration du comité d’aide mutuelle du quartier, pour découvrir jusqu’à quelle point cette communauté valorise les capacités humaines et prend avantage de l’espace, des ressources et des services communautaires accessible à l’intérieur de cette communauté. Cette étude comporte trois sections. Aucunes réponses ne sera divulguée et toutes resteront anonymes. Seulement la compilation des statistiques sera reportée au Comité D’aide Mutuelle et au professeur du cours.

Informations personnelles

1.     Quel âge avez-vous? _____________

2.     D’où êtes-vous? (le lieu où vous avez grandi)_________________________________________

3.     Avez-vous un emploi? Si oui, quel est-il?____________________________________________

4.     Depuis combien de temps vivez-vous dans les jardin de LaSalle?_______________

5.     Vivez-vous avec des enfants? Combien?___________________________________

Questions sur la communauté (veuillez encercler votre réponse)

À quelle fréquence:

1. Vous réunissez-vous pour partager un repas avec vos voisins?

Jamais     Rarement       1-2 fois/mois      environ 1 fois/semaine   plus d’une fois/semaine

2. Vos enfants (si enfants il y a) utilisent-ils un espace vert communautaire (parc, piscine, terrain de soccer, etc)?

Jamais     Rarement       1-2 fois/mois      environ 1 fois/semaine   plus d’une fois/semaine

3.     Utilisez-vous un espace vert communautaire (parc, piscine, terrain de soccer, etc)?

Jamais     Rarement       1-2 fois/mois      environ 1 fois/semaine   plus d’une fois/semaine

4.     Usez-vous des services/ outils de vos voisins? (exemples: emprunt d’un véhicule, achat d’épicerie, garderie)?

Jamais     Rarement       1-2 fois/mois      environ 1 fois/semaine   plus d’une fois/semaine

5.     Offrez vous des services/ outils à vos voisins? (exemples: emprunt d’un véhicule, achat d’épicerie, garderie)?

Jamais     Rarement       1-2 fois/mois      environ 1 fois/semaine   plus d’une fois/semaine

Questions communautaires

 1. Plantez-vous des semences ou autres dans le jardin communautaire? Si non, pourquoi?

2. Faîtes-vous parti d’un club hebdomadaire ou mensuel à l’intérieur de votre communauté (tel que clubs de livres, ligues sportives, projets environnementaux, etc.)?   Si oui, lesquels? Si non, pourquoi?

3. Vous réunissez-vous avec des membres de la communauté pour discuter de projets communautaires, ou des règles communautaires? À quelle fréquence? Si non, pourquoi?

4.     Si vous avez des enfants, prennent-ils part aux programmes parascolaires tenus au bâtiment de la piscine du mois de Septembre au mois de Juin? Si non, pourquoi?

5.    Offrez-vous à la communauté quelque services ou produits que se soit? Si oui, lesquels?

6. Comment êtes-vous impliqué dans la prise des décisions de la communauté des Jardins de LaSalle?

7. Aimeriez-vous que vos aptitudes ou produits soient ajoutés à une base de données internet de ressources humaines communautaires (base de données qui sera partagé à travers la communauté)?

 8. Voudriez-vous ou votre famille bénéficier du gain de crédits communautaires (appelés ‘’ratio’’) sur le marché en échange de vos produits et services? (Ces crédits pourraient être utiliser pour faire usage de d’autres produits et services et également gagner des privilèges de vote dans la communauté.)

9. Commen benificiez-vous en vivant dans cette cammunauté? Comment pourrait-elle être amelioré?

10. Avez-vous déjà eu contact avec le Comité D’aide Mutuelle des Jardins de LaSalle à travers sa Maison de dialogue, 9662 Jean-Milot, (au coin de la rue Bergevin) LaSalle, 514-365-9594? Voudriez-vous vous impliquer?

Maison de dialogue, Comité d'entraide Jardins LaSalle

Home of Dialogue, LaSalle Gardens Mutual Aid Committee

9662 rue Jean-Milot,  (> rue Bergevin), LaSalle, H8R 1X9, 514-365-9594

douglasf.jack@gmail.com    www.indigenecommunity.info