More Progress

Boring but necessary... 

Legal stuff

We have been recruiting a solicitor to negotiate the purchase of our site and all other legal
matters surrounding the development. Candidate firms were sent a set of questions and then interview over Zoom, starting from 4 and narrowing down to 2. As we more or less suspected, the most suitable ones were those with prior experience of cohousing projects. The two lucky companies have been asked to provide quotes for our work and we hope that these won’t be too horrific.

Social Housing

We have always intended that our cohousing should have some homes that are “social housing”, ie. that are available to less well-off people, either as “affordable” lets or as shared ownership. For our homes to qualify for this, they must be owned and managed by a Housing Association or similar organisation. Thus we need a Housing Association as a partner and particularly one that will allow us to select tenants or owner / occupiers who accept our values. For this, our stalwart interviewers have interviewed two HAs, one small and very local, one much larger but still quite local. Of these, we are going with the larger one, since they are better placed to finance building new houses and were enthusiastic enough for their CEO to come to our meeting.

Policies

One of our most important and most difficult policies to decide was to decide how we decide things! This meant that we had to formalise how (or whether) we reach a consensus over a decision, how to handle dissent and when to give up on consensus and resort to majority voting. This procedure was decided at the beginning of February and has been applied since then, successfully we think.

We have examined our policy on parking and transport. The effects of our proposed car pool on the number of car parking bays required are not easy to work out, so we have asked the UK Cohousing Network to survey existing members on how they work to help us. Do we have to make an initial charge to reserve a space or an annual charge to keep a car? The number of spaces becomes quite significant when you are paying one million pounds or more for a site of a bit over an acre.

Also in the mill has been the policy regarding pets. We don’t want to tread in dog poo in our common areas or to be kept awake by barking but also we don’t want to deprive people of their treasured companions, so some degree of flexibility is required. We’ve decided to create a Pets Committee as first line of decision-making and to put a limit of two cats or dogs per household and 32 such pets in the community. Needless to say, we’re banning dangerous pets (crocodiles, venomous snakes…) from the site.

Along with the policies on how to join the community, prospective members are interested in the ramifications of leaving, and therefore we are laying down our policy for the resale of homes, which in turn relates to our policy on allocating vacant ones. The main controversies in this policy lie in how to deal with a case when the home does not sell and in whether the community is entitled to any proportion of the sale price to fund long-term repairs or improvements to communal facilities.


Progress!

While we’ve been in lockdown, we’ve been really busy…

The Site

Since the developers have now opened marketing for the site, we have submitted our proposal and must wait with bated breath to see what their response is…


Design



Our architect, Peter, has redesigned the plans of our homes and the Common House a number of times, partly in response to requests from our members, partly in order to reduce the size of the site, to meet access requirements for Building Regulations and to make the design more in touch with its surroundings. We are conscious that the Common House is an expensive building to include in the development, so it is very important that it suits our requirements to a T. However, as we are (mostly) totally new to communal living, we find it difficult to decide how much we will use any particular facility within it. For example, how much use will we make of guest bedrooms?  How many loos do we need? We can all take a punt at this sort of thing, but we really won’t know until we move in.


The range of houses has also been changed. People pointed out that if we want to attract families, we should have family-sized houses! So Peter has added another 3-bed house and a 4-bed one as well. 


Getting to know us

We hold a weekly social zoom on Thursday evenings at 7 pm for an hour to keep in touch and for new and existing group members to get to know each other.  Please let us have your details at enquiry@cirencoho.org.uk so that we can tell you more about our scheme and invite you to the zoom.




 New Members!

In early August 2020, Cirencester Cohousing (CirenCoHo) welcomed five new members, ranging in age from 21 to 84.  Each prospective member took a few minutes to share with others in the group their reasons for wanting to join a cohousing community and CirenCoHo in particular.  As each person did this they told a little of their life story.  One person described what she had gained from a previous experience of living in community and a desire to share her gifts and skills with others.   Several people spoke of personal loss and a desire for connection with others.  Another explained how the impact and isolation of lockdown had crystalised her decision to live as part of a community where neighbours have meaningful relationships and actively support each other rather than occasionally just nodding at each other in the street.  Listening to these accounts was very moving.  We were listening to individuals taking a risk in disclosing key experiences from their past and their hopes and longings for their future.  As the stories were told, I think we became more aware of ourselves:  listening and speaking, as a group of  varied people, trying to create a community in which we all feel we belong.  We became more aware of ourselves as an intentional community in which, despite our very real differences, rough edges and sensitivities we are feeling our way towards living in a way in which we respect and value each other and our planet.

Passivhaus and Ciren Coho

One of the most important requirements in our Client Brief is that our buildings – housing and common house – should be built to ‘passivhaus’ standard.

What is the passivhaus standard?

Passivhaus is a voluntary standard aimed at minimising energy use in buildings for space heating to greatly reduce their ecological footprint. To meet the Standard, a building must use less than 15 kWh/m2 of floor area per year for heating. This implies: a high level of insulation and air-tightness; the use of solar gain to provide heat; and minimal thermal bridging (gaps in the insulation).

Reaching the passivhaus standard requires very precise design by the architects, since they must be able to predict accurately the energy use of a building before it is built. The Passivhaus Trust, which maintains the Standard, provides a computer package (Passivhaus Planning Package or PHPP) which must be used in the design process, and this calculates estimates for energy use corresponding to the targets to be met. There are many computer packages and methods to estimate the energy use of buildings, but PHPP has been shown, across many projects, to provide very accurate estimates.


Why is it so important to our community?

It is important to us that our houses are very cheap to live in and have the same cost to heat in a year as a conventional house has in a month. We cannot assume that all our companions in the cohousing will be well-off and it would be immoral to build houses that swallow a high proportion of a limited income in energy costs.

It is important to us that our buildings use as little energy as possible so that we can generate a high proportion where we live using our own solar panels. This means that the energy use of our homes will be only a small demand on the National Grid to reduce our climate impact as far as possible.

It is important to us that our houses can be peaceful places – even if we choose to make some noise - and passivhauses are well-known for keeping out noise.