FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

Click a question on the right to reveal our response. If you don’t find the answer to your question in the list on the right you could try the wonderful resources on the following websites:

 

 

Failing that, do get in touch with us here.

 

What is Cohousing?

What’s the different between cohousing and co-operatives?

Co-operative housing involves a legal entity, which owns real estate, consisting of one or more residential buildings; it is one type of housing tenure.

 

But Cohousing has several other characteristics:

 

  • It is a type of intentional, collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their neighborhoods.

  • Cohousing provides the privacy we are accustomed to within the community we seek.

  • Cohousing residents consciously commit to living as a community. The neighborhood’s physical design encourages both individual space and social contact. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, a playground, and a common house etc.

 

Is an intentional community the same as cohousing?

Cohousing is one particular form of intentional community. There are many others. Cohousing has particular characteristics such as separate dwellings (not a shared household like some intentional communities) and a common house. What most intentional communities share is a desire for cooperative culture and sustainable living. See http://www.ic.org

 

About Cohousing Generally

In what way is cohousing more economical than living outside a community?

Reduced living expenses result from living collaboratively. For example, optional community meals several times a week can save money, as can other practices such as energy-efficient design and building, or commonly owned equipment such as one lawnmower per community. Driving expenses tend to be lower because many social activities occur in the community and carpooling is common. Residents also often make group purchases of food and home maintenance items, and handle maintenance of buildings and land themselves instead of paying for outside labour.

 

Additionally, several families may share the costs for kids’ play equipment and childcare. Residents typically pay service charges in cohousing, but community work-sharing can offset many costs. 

 

None of these policies have been set yet by Sussex Cohousing, although there is a strong feeling that we would like to share as many facilities as possible, while maintaining a comfortable level of privacy.

 

What are common concerns for people considering cohousing?

People new to the idea of cohousing sometimes express concerns about…

 

  • Having to give up autonomy

You still have autonomy over what you do to, and within your own home.  Negotiating and accepting compromise over the communal space and facilities can be frustrating and time consuming but most find it worth the enormous advantages of jointly run facilities and the richness of group activities. 
 

  • The potential slowness and conflict in decision-making

This is one of the main challenges (and to us, one of the main joys) of cohousing.  Sociocracy, the form of consent decision-making we use can be exciting, fun and a fair, caring way to learn about yourself and others in your community.

 

Consent decision-making is similar to consensus but has a lower threshold for agreement, so decisions are easier to reach. It is saying 'This is good enough for now and I know it can be changed if it isn't working' rather than 'This isn't quite what I wanted so I won't accept it'. For streamlined decision-making, consent is used in policy decisions (e.g. the community's general expectations of the maintenance team) but more traditional methods can be used in operational decisions (e.g. allowing someone in the maintenance team to decide where to buy materials - which should meet the expectation of being from a sustainable source, and within budget).

 

A conflict resolution procedure involving a mediator or third party may be used as a fall back if needed.

 

  • Attending too many meetings and being expected to do things and join in when they don’t want to

Finding a manageable level of involvement is a balancing act – how to make a reasonable contribution to the running of the community without getting too worn out. This is something we will all help each other with and be ready to listen to each other about.  Participating in the work of the community is probably the single most powerful way to really feel part of the community and get to know other residents.
 

  • There being too much or too little ideology

Our core values are reflected in our Vision, Mission and Principles, our Constitution and our Membership Procedure.  But as with many cohousing communities, there are minimal values or ideological requirements, which is what attracts many to cohousing in the first place. We think it will be possible to encompass and gain from a wide range of beliefs including green living, vegetarianism/veganism, spiritual beliefs and more. Respecting these different ideologies will requires effective decision making procedures.
 

  • Not being able to get along with people

The advantage of cohousing is that you have a large choice of other neighbours to mix with to counterbalance any difficulties with one individual.  A conflict resolution procedure involving a third party or mediator will be used as a fall back if needed.
 

  • How it affects leaving money to children

We have yet to decide our inheritance policy, although it seems likely that there will be some stipulations involved in leaving your home to your children.  Any members who join the organisation before this decision has been made will take an equal part in the policy making process.  Sociocracy includes regular opportunities to reassess and rewrite policies.

 

 

What are the benefits of cohousing?

Cohousing residents in Denmark, Sweden, the USA and the UK report the same advantages: 

 

  • a sense of community and shared values, a sense of belonging

  • keeping one’s privacy while having an active and locally based social life,

  • living more economically and sustainably – sharing skills, tools, heating systems, all sorts

  • neighbours that become friends and the mutual support that comes naturally with that (anything from shared childcare, to a shoulder to cry on, to a pint of milk, to someone noticing if you have not been seen for a day or two)

  • support in older age,

  • feeling useful/making a contribution

 

Who lives in Cohousing? It seems everyone would have to get along really well, but does that work in practice?

Cohousing attracts a wide range of household types and people from all walks of life. It isn’t essential for everyone in a cohousing community to like every neighbour. In fact, a variety of personalities will add interest to community life. Cohousing residents need only share the goal of making their lives more enjoyable by cooperating with their neighbours. Our method of governance and conflict resolution procedures will be there to help us with any disagreements or difficulties.

 

 

How “green” is cohousing?

Sustainable living is an important part of cohousing, and we want to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible. Ideally people who work outside of the community will be able to commute by bicycle or car sharing.   As a group we might for example decide to limit car ownership to one per household. One big benefit of living in a cohousing neighbourhood is that we can expect many of our household bills to be lower than in an entirely independent household.

 

In developing our new homes we are aiming to build in as ‘green’ a way as possible using design and materials that make a minimal impact on the environment. This could mean, for example, not having a washing machine in your own kitchen but using the shared laundry. We might have a central heat source supplying all the homes with heat and hot water, and some electricity from PV panels. We might aim to grow as much of our own fruit and vegetables as possible.  All of these policies and aims are yet to be decided and any members who join the organisation before these decisions have been made will take an equal part in the policy making process.  Sociocracy includes regular opportunities to reassess and rewrite policies.

 

About this Project

Why are you/we doing this?

We want to be part of a community (not isolated from our neighbours) with good and friendly relations with each other. We want to live in high quality, environmentally-friendly places, that we can adapt to meet our future needs. We want to be able to shape and influence our environment.  We want the benefits of shared community space, for social, friendly and fun activities. We want space to live, relax and enjoy nature, and for us and our children to be able to live freely and safely.

 

What will it be like living in Sussex Cohousing?

In many ways living in cohousing is like living in a traditional neighbourhood or small village. Residents will all know one another, socialise together and support each other. To gain these benefits residents take on greater obligations than with a normal tenancy agreement or lease, to share the running and maintenance of the community.  

 

What facilities will there be?

So far we have discussed our desire to include the following in our community:

 

Outdoors: The community might have plenty of outdoor, green, shared space and might even have its own woodland.  There might be outside play areas, garden space/vegetable gardens, BBQ/outdoor pizza ovens and outdoor seating.

 

Shared Facilities: Facilities might include a bicycle storage area, crèche/childcare rota, tool/equipment store, workshops and garages, storage space, play/sports equipment, food production (eggs, milk etc.), an on-site convenience shop and community vehicles/car and bike pooling. 

 

The Common House: The Common House might include a kitchen, dining room, sitting room, toilets, a large hall space, work/office/meeting spaces, guest rooms, a laundry room and indoor play areas.

 

How long will it take for the project to be complete?

We have no clear idea : )  though it is likely to be a minimum of three years, and probably longer. 

 

The time it takes to realise a cohousing community varies greatly from project to project.  It might depend on the regularity of meetings, the time and financial investments of members, the ease with which land can be found and the type of build project being undertaken.  We want to move as fast as possible, while making sure our group dynamic is stable and healthy.

 

I don’t have a lot of capital. How much will it cost?

It’s true that most cohousing requires an outlay of capital to get the scheme underway. Costs, which include hiring consultants & architects, and paying for materials & construction, can make cohousing unavailable to those on lower incomes who nevertheless resonate philosophically with this social model. 

 

However, given the increasing demand for affordable and rentable properties and a more diverse range of residents, the UK Cohousing Network is working with housing associations, other housing professionals and government agencies to ease the restrictions around planning and financing so that cohousing can become more accessible.

 

We would very much like to be able to offer affordable housing and to recognise and reward time and skills invested as well as money and will do everything in our power to enable that.

 

Will my friends and family be able to come and visit/stay?

Of course! If you have room they can stay with you in your own home, or you might want to book a guest room in the common house.

 

How are decisions made?

We use a consent decision‐making process called Sociocracy. This means we seek to find a solution that takes account of everyone’s views and objections, because they can often improve the final outcome. Consensus decision making is a creative and dynamic way of reaching agreement between all members of a group. That means that if you have a different view you will be listened to and accommodated as much as possible.  For more information on Sociocracy you could watch this or visit ?

 

How will our agreed rules be enforced?

We would like to operate a lot on trust. However, if there is consensus within the community that someone is persistently not complying with agreements there will be a process to follow.  The process might include sanctions, conflict resolution and ultimately a resident may be asked to leave.  These processes have not been agreed yet and any members who join the organisation before these decisions have been made will take an equal part in the policy making process.  Sociocracy includes regular opportunities to reassess and rewrite policies.

 

Can I bring my pet?

The community will develop a pets policy, for the benefit of pets and residents. This might limit the overall number of pets kept on the site or the number of pets per household.  This policy has not been agreed yet and any members who join the organisation before the decisions have been made will take an equal part in the policy making process.  Sociocracy includes regular opportunities to reassess and rewrite policies.

 

What happens if I fall out with someone?

In choosing to live in Sussex Cohousing, you commit to making every effort to resolve disputes and differences as quickly as possible. Sometimes it may be necessary to ask someone else living in the community to act as a mediator. In serious cases we may appoint an external mediator.

 

What is Sociocracy?

Sociocracy is a way of organising that is inclusive and learns at it goes.

 

It is based on interlinked activity circles (teams) that have some autonomy in deciding how things are done. They base their decisions on policies (values and aims) that the community shares. Policy decisions are made by consent within circles, but more straightforward (operational) decisions can be made in traditional ways (see How are decisions made).

 

Broader policies are made by upper circles. With double-linking (a circle includes at least one member from the circle above and one from the circle below) consent to policies flows though the organisation. Meetings should be well prepared and well facilitated so that everyone has a chance to share concerns and modify proposals.

 

Part of a decision should be a means of measuring its success, and a period after which it will be reviewed. This makes it easier to give consent, knowing the decision will be tested and can be changed if it doesn't work well.

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