Cohousing Visits

 Whole Village — May 2018

A group of about 10 from the Peterborough Cohousing Group made a road trip to Caledon, Ontario for a tour of Whole Village, an eco-village cohousing complex that was built in 2006 and consists of a large building with a common living room and kitchen and 11 apartments attached to it, each with a separate entrance. The community has two 100-acre lots and runs a working farm as well as a large market garden. Brenda gave the group a tour and talked about the building of the village and some of the difficulties they had, including the fact that the local municipality fought their proposal and the material they used for the roof deteriorated and is now leaking. (More)

Wolf Creek Lodge — September, 2017: 

Kris toured Wolf Creek in California while in the area for a family gathering. It turned out that her sister Carol knows the person who replied to Kris’s email, Bob Miller, from a church they both attended in Grass Valley.  He was away, but they were met by Magdalene, a 93 year old German woman, and Mike, who gave them a tour. Wolf Creek is not specifically restricted to seniors, but is geared to that demographic, and has no kid-friendly elements.  Age of current residents ranges from about 60 to 93. There are 30 units in total. (More)

Sunward, Great Oak and Touchstone — May, 2017: Marc, Kris, Barb and Lori went on a tour of the three cohousing communities in Ann Arbor. Robin, Paul and Genevieve were very helpful, answering all of the group’s questions and showing them the common house and individual units in all three places. Robin, who has lived in Touchstone for a number of years,  was the official guide.  Paul is one of the original Sunward members, and Genevieve has recently moved to Sunward from Touchstone, having previously lived at Nyland cohousing in Boulder Colorado.

Sunward was completed in 1998, on 20 acres of land right at the edge of the city, with 40 units, 95 people, and a 7500 sqft common house.  The property was already zoned multi-residential, so they avoided all the rezoning hassles; they were fortunate that the property was incorrectly listed by the realtor as industrial mall when it was zoned multi-residential; they felt they would have been competing with developers if it had been correctly listed. (More)

Two-Acre Wood and Yulupa — March, 2017:

The first visit was Two Acre Wood, a 14 unit place in Sebastopol, on two acres of land, built in 1999.  Only three units have changed hands since the beginning, and the many children who grew up there have now moved out or are off at college.  There is one new family with children, but most members are now getting older. Sebastopol has a population of 7500 people, and is in the midst of the Sonoma wine-growing region.  We met with Marty Roberts, who is an original member.  

The common house was centrally located, next to the parking lot and in the centre of the long skinny lot and the individual units.  Just inside the front door was a bulletin board, and just beyond that was a nice (but small) gathering place/library/meeting room with a fireplace and comfy furniture. There was a large central room, with folding tables and stackable chairs stored in the corner, allowing multiple uses for the room – dining, yoga classes, concerts, etc. The guest room had a sofabed and also functioned as the kids play room during common dinners (not really relevant anymore as most of the kids are grown) and as another meeting room. (More)

Nyland and Silver Sage — January, 2017Kris visited two cohousing communities in the Boulder area of Colorado, which has a population of 100k with a surrounding area population of another 100k in a sprawling mass of satellite towns.  Because Boulder is essentially a city built by hippies, a huge amount of land surrounding the city was designated as open space, and the suburban area is clustered beyond that.  The first place we visited, Nyland, was outside of Boulder on what had been a 43 acre farm.

It had a big, wide open feel, and a spectacular view of the mountains.  It is rural in that sense, but is fairly close to both Boulder (15 minutes) and the satellite town of Lafayette (10 minutes).  The property would normally have been turned into a development of million dollar homes, but it happened to be right beside the water treatment plant, so wasn’t seen as desirable.  And it turned out the the farmer had been part of a hippie commune in his youth, and was thrilled by the cohousing model, and happily let them option the land for as long as it took to get approval.  This was in 1989, and was one of the first cohousing communities in the States. (More)

Hundredfold and Liberty — December, 2016Marc and Kris visited Hundredfold Farm in Orrtanna, and spent a couple of hours talking to Linda Miller, who joined the group in the second wave, around 2003.  They were originally a group of about 12 families that purchased an 80-acre tree farm in about 1998.  They then discovered that there wasn’t enough water for their planned development – they drilled wells, but most were dry (they are on a hill, with a great view, but far from groundwater).

The county insisted that they then build an elaborate and innovative water treatment facility (a large greenhouse full of plants is used to filter the water), which is fascinating, and works, but takes a lot of effort, requires regular, costly inspections, and provides far more reclaimed water than they can use in their toilets – the only allowable use for it.  They must still rely on wells for laundry, garden watering, etc, as well as drinking and bathing.  The cost of this, plus putting in a road up the hill, bringing natural gas line up the hill, etc, cost an extra $850k and took years – they were unable to build until about 2006. (More)

Notes and thoughts from KrisEveryone we spoke to was very enthusiastic about cohousing and its benefits.  Every group works out their own level of interaction, rules, work projects, etc and those decisions affect the dynamics of each place.  There was a real sense of community and co-operation in most of them, a couple of really nice common houses, and a very vibrant, happy feel to the common dinner we attended.

Buying the land before you do all of the hydrological studies, etc, and get rezoning can be incredibly risky – witness Hundredfold’s problems.  But many groups lose the land they want because they instead make conditional offers and it takes a long time to move the process forward.  Both Nyland and Liberty were able to keep the offer open for situationally-unique reasons (very sympathetic seller, angry divorce), and Silver Sage had full support (and free land) from city council. (More)