Frequently Asked Questions.
A:. The communal house is essential to cohousing and is the hub of the community. It is sited so that people regularly walk near it when arriving and leaving or visiting other cohousers. Meals are regularly eaten together in the communal house, which is where other communal activities and general socialising happens. Communal gardens and land are people friendly and therefore car free. Cars are left in the carpark near the entrance. Shopping and large items can be brought by trolleys from the carpark to where we live. People join cohousing communities because they want to be part of a small group who know each other well. In many ways it is reverting to basic human needs to be part of a group. The group offers safety and companionship which is balanced against our needs to be separate and private behind our own front door - cohousing offers both. It started in Denmark in the 80’s and is now popular in the USA. People often find it very obvious when they first hear about it – surprisingly Stroud Cohousing will be the first new build i.e. not a conversion of old buildings in the UK.
A: You will need to be able to buy £5,000 of shares in the Cohousing Company to join at this stage i.e. before February 2001. However you must also be able to pay for your new house. If your existing house is not fully mortgaged you can arrange to release some of the equity (money tide up in the house). Bank of Scotland Tel 0800 810810 will lend up to £50,000 non-status that means you don’t have to prove your income. Accelerator Mortgages can lend 100% of the equity in your existing house as well as lending on your new Cohouse, including 95% of the plot cost, non-status included Tel 01506 417130. Alternatively, it may be simpler to sell your house and rent locally whilst the Cohousing Community is being built. Mortgage Brokers eg John Charcol Tel 0800 718191 or financial advisers will help with all aspects of the financing. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a list of 28 lenders who will finance self-build. You may try the Ecology Building Society Tel 0845 6745566 – they have expressed an interest in funding cohousing – the manager is Paul Ellis.
A: These sort of decisions will be made when we are living in the community. We will probably have a rule whereby you must check out with others before having a pet. Some members are already concerned not to have any dog shit around the site – so owning dogs may be difficult. Decision Making will be by consensus or failing that 75% majority. The downside of Cohousing is that you may not always get what you want. The shareholders agreement and the Lease will have some very basic rules, including a requirement to respect your neighbours and follow the rules made from time to time by the Community.
A: At the beginning of October 2000 there were 11 families as members. Seven of them live in or near to Stroud. Two families live in London and one in Kent. Six of the families have children under 18. Members jobs include engineering, social work, various therapies, architecture, consultancy, teaching, home-schooling, designing and property developing. David is the project coordinator and managing director. His job is to get the group of members together, buy the site, arrange finance and work with group to design and build the community. David founded the first retrofit Cohousing Community in the UK, Frankleigh House in Bradford on Avon. He will live in the new community with his family. If there is money left after shareholders are repaid, David will be paid a fee. Decisions are made by consensus or if deadlocked by 75% majority.
A: Often groups who spend a lot of time getting to know each other, do not end up living together. This is certainly the case in the UK as well as in Denmark (Cohousing book) and the USA. The design stage as well as the building stage will be periods of sometimes intense meetings where we will get to know each other very well. Cohousing is not as intimate as a commune, the intention is to be good caring neighbours, close friendships are a bonus.
Q: How do we choose who joins and what if we don’t get on with them?
A: During the development stage, people will be accepted who agree with the principles and therefore want to be good neighbours and can afford to buy in. The shareholders may decide not to accept somebody despite the financial pressure. By and large, new members will be self selected. When the community is complete, people join by buying a house from someone leaving. Ideally prospective members will spend time getting to know the whole community, this will enable their buying in to proceed smoothly. In practice, we will probably have a waiting list of “approved” people. Ultimately, the sale to people you don’t want can only be blocked by the community or someone in it buying the house. If you don’t get on with someone, the community may develop a mediation system to help. If the person is breaking the community rules, you can insist the community enforces them.
Q: I am worried that the communal house will be hired out to the wider community and I won’t fit in
A: The communal house is essentially the living room of the cohousing community. It is not a village hall for general use. The idea is that we will feel it to be an extension of our own houses. We can have a cup of tea in the afternoon and see who’s there for a chat. We can have birthday parties, weddings and batmitzvahs etc. If we as a community decide to hire it out then you will be part of that decision. We will not use the communal house in a way that excludes cohousers from generally hanging out there.
Q: What about communal vegetable plots?
A: The site is just over 2 acres in a very urban location. There is not enough space for communal vegetable allotments to provide for all the community. Of course, private gardens can be used as vegetable plots. The communal land will be gardens, lawns, orchards, play structures, trees and treehouses, possibly workshop sheds, the communal house, patio space, benches,bicycle racks and parking.
A: There are many definitions of what are eco-houses. However we do get a number of eco-brownie points for the following: Rainwater harvesting – used for flushing toilets and washing machines; Solar panels on the roofs; turf roof on communal house; SUDS low run off sustainable drainage system; Super insulation of walls and roof 300mm thick and with re-cycled newspaper insulation; timber framed buildings from renewable and sustainable sources (as far as possible); car sharing schemes; Town Centre Brownfield site – close to good transport and easy for cycling; Communal eating, communal recycling and composting; decision making by consensus.