Pete at the NE Cohousing Summit

What follows are some notes that Pete shared about the workshop and sessions he attended at the Northeast Cohousing Summit in Amherst, Mass. on the weekend of September 21-23, 2018

Seniors Co-housing 101
Charles Durrett

40% of seniors are lonely

Building is just a frame
Cohousing can make the difference between living and surviving

During a recent heat wave in Spain and France – 27K died. Most often the difference between survival is someone being there with a wet towel to help the senior cool down.
Chuck also referenced a book about the villages in France ranging from 800 to 2000 – nobody died in their villages during this same heat wave.

Denmark has a concept of a “culture worker” that we don’t have here. Basically this person looks out for the welfare of the community and its inhabitants during big decisions. E.g. if a new road needed to go through, this person would interview the local people to determine how it would impact each of them before deciding on the optimal route.Similarly, they help establish cohousing for folks.

Cohousing has more than 50% introverts, the opposite of the rest of society. Tend to be highly functional ones aware that their long term well being depends upon strong relationships.

Breaking bread is critical to facilitate community’
Chuck – six nights a week at his (20 seniors, 56 adults, 30 kids)
Pioneer – three nights, I believe
One other got into trouble when they de-emphasized the importance of this down to once a month

First key step is getting a site, and this is where many cohousing projects take years to get going. Don’t just wait for one to come available. Get out and look at possible spots that meet your criteria and make an offer. Put some money down to lock it in at the least while you sort out whether it will work for your purposes.

When planning a site, he advocated four solid days of pouring over plans with everyone involved in the design. People are lousy at representing other people, so best way to ensure it meets people’s

Number of cars will go down. One of Chuck’s cohousing community realized he went from five tanks a month down to one. Common to car share.

Meetings: High functioning groups need fewer meetings – a lot of management occurs on the paths

The different stages to every project:
Site Design Book
Common House Design Book
Private House Book

The advantage of these is that new people then know exactly what was agreed to at startup.
Bigger the group involved, the better the design.

A membership committee is crucial.
In Chuck’s Diane takes every new couple out for lunch and through every design decision to get them up to speed
Job of the architect is to make the design such that maintaining the community is easier once they move in and the honeymoon wears off

Front Porch versus back porch – face the front porches into the heart of the community. Front porches for being communal; back porches when you need privacy. In practice, quite often 80% of the time ends up being spent on the front porches, 20% on the back.

Cars – Putting cars on the perimeter creates the need to walk by others to get to the homes, and encourage social interaction

Common house
Accountability key to running them
#1 acoustics, #2 light, above all, feel
What are activities, what are places, 40 goals down to 15-20 over two days of design work

When interviewing new members, ask people what their experience with community is

Don’t touch common house until private house is done (?!?!?)

Design needs to be done with everyone present
Committees – keep the committees basic, especially initially
Coordinating Committee
If no site, then that’s pretty much all that should be on the agenda

Design committee comes along afterwards and makes sure architect didn’t screw up, not the ones picking things to do
As soon as you pick a site, half will drop out – normal.
Need development consultant support to help find a site. Some struggle for years otherwise.

Size of cohousing:
Danes – no more than 50 adults, but get as close to that as you can, so each will have four-five they can relate to

Design process
Site Programming
Common House Programming
Schematic Design Closure Workshop
Design Development Workshop
Prioritization Workshop
Design Committee Formation

It’s going to be very challenging getting signoffs form the city, but just keep insisting it’s what you want

What else is critical?
Getting it right from a cultural point of view
Where their energy is
The essence of who they want to be more intellectual, more physical? Very different from one to next

Replacement Reserves Lyons Witten, Pioneer Valley
Buildings and Grounds – 65% of budget
You do need one, long term savings account too expensive for annual budget
e.g. replacing roofs, repainting trim
Strict rules around what it can be used for in the US
Separate bank account
Management tool is Excel
40% of 100K gathered annually at Pioneer valley out of condo fees ($170-300/mo)
Roofing and painting (replacing new trim with a non-wood material) the major expenses, but driveways will be huge as well, some debate about going with gravel over more of the interior paths
Everything inside and windows/doors/solar are an individual’s expense
Discuss issue with local solar and dealing with utility

Dynamic Governance Jerry Koch Gonzalez
Used to teach consensus, now just one part of dynamic governance (Sociocracy)
People frustrated with trying to get things done
Less ability for one person to railroad the process
Consent a very specific process
Most of decisions can then be distributed out, more efficient
Selection Process
Define Role and Team
Name Basis for decision
-qualities, criteria
Nominations – written
1st round – written to collect thoughts and reasons
2nd round – open, stay or change on original opinion
Facilitator – puts forward the decision he advises based on the votes so far, not held to the vote of the others if needed
Consent round
If still objections, is there a way to turn a no into a yes?
Distinguish personal preference versus range of tolerance (in relation to aim of group)
Every group has authority over who its members are (or can remove them from decision)
With delegation to a sub-group comes the responsibility to get full feedback from the affected before proposing solution to the bigger group

Getting the Work Done – Lyons Witten, Pioneer Valley cohousing
Children in cohousing have many adult mentors
Pioneer – work coordinated by Hub Committee, now ‘OAFs’
Tried many things, voluntary, affinity teams, now coordinated by the OAFs. Often hashed out by fall meeting/retreat that is compulsory (different topic each year)

Common house and guest rooms (2) booked by filling out online calendar

Garden – community – harvest open to all
They have a good design review manual – clear about expectations, just external changes managed
Membership committee – maintains waiting lists, manage house sales, manage associated members – They’ve never had to go to marketplace

Some affordable units with very specific restrictions, all the rest at market rates

Tools – common ones are the bigger ones; otherwise better off having your own

Annex (their workshop) – would have been great to build it initially and done all the trim in there rather than outside, but bank wouldn’t fund it until condos were actually built

If it doesn’t build community, hire the job out

They have three work days – one in spring, two in fall
Regular list for each always some small additional tasks
Not everyone comes or participates, but all are strongly encouraged to
Workday includes a meal – seniors who can’t work help with this
Kids – give them a mentor, love to help with things they think are fun, if can’t work help make cookies in kitchen
Plan tasks ahead so efficient and materials handy on day of
Health inspector never comes by, very diligent about keeping common house kitchen clean, only when preparing food for public
They use a Master kitchen schedule for the year
3 version of each meal: main meal, veg alternative if necessary, child friendly version
Pay for meals in advance, highlight squares where paid for, cooks cross off what eaten – $4 for each meal budgeted, $3.50 for ingredients

Resale and Rental POD, Rebooted Workshare
Tacoma Village
Lot of documents online to explain their process, how sales can best work, buyer and seller guides
Request 1-3% back to the community, hit and miss to get it originally when did this
Membership now:
Does outreach to find prospects
When purchased, assign a buddy to explain workshare. Discuss from beginning, six hours a month, tasks that are done as teams. Buddy back 30 days later to check how going.
Ongoing robust marketing campaign, education of new folks is key to success, but don’t set prices
First right of refusal on property, and if price changes, get the same go at it again.