Boring but necessary...
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.
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.
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.