What is cohousing, and is it what we want?
For the meeting, we should review all the various retirement options, discuss the pros and cons of each, and ask everyone to think about whether cohousing is right for them – costs, involvement in decision-making, designing the community, shared work, co-care, cooking group dinners, not having all meals provided.
Go over the 6 characteristics of cohousing, and discuss if we are all onboard with those concepts. Reconsider all of our assumptions – why senior, rather than multigenerational, or perhaps adult-only? Cohousing as opposed to house-sharing?
Cohousing includes group dinners and work projects, committees, hours required. Instead, do people actually want someone to look after all the maintenance and provide 3 meals a day?
Will we want to hire staff to do this at some point, or assume that we (and those who follow us) can carry on indefinitely? (This can be something that we can change in the future, as needed, since we make all the decisions).
Discuss the advantages of being in control of decisions, and the real sense of community that comes from being involved in designing and running it (as compared to living in a pre-planned development).
What is our vision?
We should determine the important features we want outside of the cohousing community and figure out how close we want to be to these, to determine which cities/towns we should be concentrating on.
- How close do we want to be to the airport, or downtown Toronto?
- Will we be satisfied with the stores, restaurants and entertainment available in a small town, or do we need something larger?
- Will we be happier on the residential outskirts of a larger centre, or within walking distance of the centre of a small town?
- How close would we need to be to that larger centre?
- What do we want within walking distance?
- Consider Ontario versus New Zealand or other locations?
- What else is important to people?
My personal vision of what I want includes a large, bright, open-concept common house with a view of nature, stars and sunsets. I want a place where dogs can run around free, and we can develop extensive gardens. I don’t want to feel hemmed in. That said, I’m still not entirely sure if the farm (or some other rural property) is as desirable as a small town, or a large property just outside of an urban area, with easier access to amenities, if we can find something that suits our needs.
What do we feel is important for our cohousing site:
- Lots of land (for walking and as a buffer zone)?
- Extensive outdoor seating areas?
- Views and nature?
- Open space for outdoor activities (pond, bonfire pit, bocce court, tennis court)?
- Walking distance to stores, restaurants?
- Other features?
What do people see as the advantages and disadvantages of the farm and the advantages and disadvantages of something closer to an urban centre? (perhaps get everyone to express their opinions and record them).
Is the Peterborough area the right choice for us?
The Sherbrooke St. property got us thinking that we would ideally like something near a fair sized urban area, but not inside it. If we eliminate large cities (>200,000) and too small cities (<50,000), and those too close to the GTA, or too far north, we are left with Barrie (166k), Kingston (118k), Peterborough (80k), Sarnia (79k), and Belleville (64k).
Sarnia is a long drive from Toronto (2hr30min from airport, further to downtown). Kingston and Belleville are a bit closer, but along the busy 401 corridor ( 2hr30min and 1hr50min from airport), this does mean they are on the train line to Toronto (2hr20min and 1hr50min on train to downtown). Barrie is central, and closest at 50 minutes from the airport, but the 400 is often very busy. Peterborough will soon have the 407, and is a nice central location (1hr20min from airport)
For our purposes, Peterborough has a number of attractive features compared to other cities in Ontario. It is big enough (80,000) to have a variety of restaurants, stores, services and entertainment options, but doesn’t have the high costs and traffic of really big cities. It is close to lakes and countryside, but also reasonably close to Toronto.
The only other cities with similar profiles are Barrie and Belleville, with Kingston sharing many of these features but being further from Toronto. So when we wanted to look at properties near an urban centre in an effort to decide if that would be preferable to building our community at the farm, we decided to start with Peterborough.
Is Peterborough the ideal city to be close to?
- Other city/town preferences?
- How do we proceed from here?
- How fast do we move forward?
- Visiting other cohousing communities (Denver, Portland, D.C. area, anywhere else?) – what questions should we ask?
- How do they deal with cooking, maintenance as the senior group ages?
- What design features work best for winter conditions?
- What design features work best for senior? Single storey, elevators, stair lifts?
- What are the most popular functions of the common house?
- What rooms get more or less use than expected?
What is important in the individual homes and what features aren’t necessary?
I think we should adopt a two-pronged approach, if the consensus is that we are willing to consider both the farm and a property outside of Peterborough.
We should look into rezoning in Trent Lakes, and possibly even proceed with the application.
Our first step is just to talk to the planning department, and see how receptive they are to the general concept, and what actions we are required to take.
It’s my belief that there is a fee ($1100) for an application, and you are required to provide sketches and dimensions of the buildings you propose to build, so we need to make at least some progress on deciding what we want our community to look like – number of units, size of units, detached, townhouse, etc. That’s probably a good thing to be working on anyway, in a general sense, even if we don’t know exactly what our final property will look like.
We should also agree upon the characteristics of our ideal location closer to Peterborough.
- How much land do we want?
- How far outside of town are we willing to go?
- Do we only want to look in certain areas? (Closer to Toronto, closer to small towns like Lakefield?)
We can try to find a realtor to help us in the search.
We should also decide if there’s a time limit on when we need to make a decision – after a certain amount of time, do we give up on finding the ideal property and either choose the best available, or decide to go with the farm?
We should also try to determine what we will need to do for rezoning – which is complicated by the fact that there are different townships that would be involved depending on what side of the city we choose.
Existing houses or vacant land could both be options, given that good choices in both might be quite rare. Renovating an existing house might work out financially, as long as the changes aren’t major. But it also depends on what our vision of the common house is, and how willing we are to adjust that to an existing structure, or if our vision requires that we build something very specific from scratch. Again, it makes sense to work on what the community should look like.
Committees and meeting:
- Go over pages 1-5 of Bootcamp Manual: https://goo.gl/eiO3jY
- Ask people to think about committees for next meeting
- Meeting protocols; agenda items, meeting roles (rotating?)
- Schedule for future meetings