Design Initiative

Partner: Tomo Spaces


Tomo House is a 12-unit cohousing project located on Vancouver’s Main Street. Through this project, Tomo Spaces and Our Urban Village Cohousing are piloting a collaborative “cohousing lite” approach, by which a cohousing group partners with a developer. 

The name Tomo stands for “together + more”, reflecting the project’s guiding principles. From the start, the project was designed to foster social interaction. The design considers opportunities to share space and resources and to encourage informal and formal activities among neighbours. For instance, the proposed L-shaped building features a Common House with shared kitchen, dining, and social areas on the ground floor that links to a courtyard. Pathways and stairs are more generous and located to support encounters and chats between residents. Rather than an insular approach, the building is designed with multiple interfaces to the greater neighbourhood.

In collaboration with future residents from Our Urban Village Cohousing, the design team led by MA+HG Architects also includes Happy Cities, Lanefab Design/Build, and Prospect & Refuge.

This innovative model comes at an important time. As housing prices continue to rise faster than incomes, neither the high-rise tower nor the single family home serves families’ needs. 

The affordable, sociable, sustainable project is an appropriate and replicable missing middle solution for Vancouver’s many single-family neighbourhoods. 

This is where Happy Cities comes in. 

Social wellbeing post-occupancy study 

We are measuring how the built environment (building layout and amenities) can boost wellbeing and sociability among residents. In order to do this, Happy Cities will conduct a social wellbeing post-occupancy study with Tomo Spaces and future residents from Our Urban Village Cohousing. The study will span two years, including a baseline study before move-in for comparison with post-occupancy data.

This unique and collaborative study will set a new industry precedent on high-impact design actions that can be implemented to boost social wellbeing. By identifying the key design features and spaces that are promoting social wellbeing and connectedness, we will generate crucial evidence on the types of actions that should be implemented in future developments. It will help the housing industry identify investment-worthy actions that are proven to have positive results.

Learning from community housing movements

Tomo House draws inspiration from community housing movements, including cohousing and co-operative housing. To share knowledge around how multi-unit buildings can boost social connection and wellbeing among their residents, we co-wrote a series with Tomo Spaces, titled, “Learning from community housing movements.” The four articles can be found on our Stories page.

What is “cohousing lite”?

Cohousing is a collaborative form of living where people with similar values choose to make a home together. Residents own their own units, but the larger building hosts shared spaces beyond traditional amenities. In the cohousing lite model, the developer owns the land until the project is built. The developer also leads design and building, but engages residents throughout the process.


Step 3: Baseline Survey

Step 4: Experience Interviews

Step 5: First Post Occupancy Study

Step 6: Second Post-occupancy Study

Step 7: Key Learnings

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