Terra Firma remains Ottawa's only cohousing community. [Photo © Amalie Rud Seerup]
Twenty-two years ago, 30 citizens chose a quiet street in Old Ottawa East to be their new home. They wanted to be closer to their community and not face physical barriers and other restrictions.
They formed Terra Firma, a multigenerational cohousing community that welcomed seniors, children, and young families to live together cohesively.
More than two decades later, it is still the only co-housing community in Ottawa but two more are in development. According to the
Canadian Cohousing Network, 12 more are scattered across the country with 16 more forming because of a growing popularity and interest in the concept.
While each home has its own private deck, residents share a common space. As they gather for a communal Sunday dinner, their homes merge into one, welcoming friends, guests, and residents alike. [Photo © Hana Sabah]
Suzanne Gagnon is one of the founders of Terra Firma. She has seen the community go from six separate houses to one merged home. Since then, Terra Firma has expanded because of demand with more homes being bought across the street. [Photo © Amalie Rud Seerup]
For single mother, Shoshana Magnet, living in Terra Firma means there are always young children for her son to play with and grown-ups for her to interact with. [Photo © Hana Sabah]
Terra Firma holds a community dinner every Sunday and Wednesday. This Sunday’s menu was a build-your-own vegan burger. [Photo © Hana Sabah]
Heidi Smith (right) is a guest at Sunday’s shared meal. She is interested in joining Terra Firma, but resident Marlene Neufeld tells her that her only shot is by convincing a family to rent out a spare room. “Because nobody wants to leave,” Neufeld said. [Photo © Hana Sabah]
Children play in the trampoline located in Terra Firma’s shared, vibrant garden while older residents prepare for dinner. [Photo © Hana Sabah]
Calla, at 1 1/2 is among the youngest members of the community. The oldest resident of Terra Firma is 80. [Photo © Hana Sabah]
Gagnon leads a young boy inside her house. The residents not only share their backyard but often visit each other’s houses. [Photo © Amalie Rud Seerup]
Gagnon says living in cohousing is her peace project. She says what burdens the world is conflict and the way to deal with it is to address it from the home. It’s about having “faith in the human race,” she concludes. [Photo © Amalie Rud Seerup]
With 30 residents living in Terra Firma at the moment, the cohousing community is full. Ever since it was formed no one has moved out. [Photo © Amalie Rud Seerup]