Sessions: 2018 Northeast Cohousing Summit

Affordable Cohousing, Including Affordable Farming – Lessons Learned and Being Learned at Rocky Corner, Bethany CT - Saturday Session with David Berto, Richard Wilber & Jerome Garciano

Rocky Corner is the first cohousing community in Connecticut. It is being developed by Green Haven, Inc., which is a local group who got together to create this community that they then want to live in. Construction is underway at this time. The community is located on an abandoned dairy farm of 33 acres in close proximity to New Haven, CT. With clustering of the buildings, most of the property is preserved as farmland. The goals of this project include creating a vibrant cohousing community in a rural setting, with a wide range of affordable units for a wide range of income diversity, and creating an effective and affordable approach to utilizing the remaining farmland. All of these goals presented large challenges but are being accomplished. Development of a cohousing community in this rural setting inherently had initial challenges of high land costs, zoning and town approvals, and creating of water, septic, road access and fire safety. The community of 30 homes and families will have 13 of these at reduced prices that are affordable to purchasers in a range of limited incomes. With the relatively small farm area, alternatives are being evaluated to determine the best ways to effectively utilize this area for ongoing and productive agriculture. An initial detailed evaluation was undertaken by a permaculture expert to define the best uses in the different locations throughout the site. Alternative uses are then being defined and evaluated to best align with the soil characteristics and local interest. Uses include community supported agriculture, community gardens, fruit and nut trees, eggs, small animals, coppice, and other uses as they are identified.

Affordable Co-housing: The Sharing Housing Option - Saturday Session with Annamarie Pulhar

Many people who see the benefits of co-housing and would like to live in such a community can’t afford it. The costs of land and new construction mean that only the affluent can comfortably commit to joining a co-housing communities. But what if people agreed to buy in together to live under one roof? Or an owner opens his/her house to a home-mate? How might that simple idea make it possible for the less than affluent to participate in co-housing communities? How does this impact the community?
This Think Tank will explore the how shared housing can be incorporated into co-housing communities. Lead by Annamarie Pluhar, author of Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates and President of Sharing Housing, Inc., it will begin by identifying the barriers and opportunities to implementing this idea. Small groups will then discuss how those barriers can be overcome.

Age-Friendly is Human Friendly - The Appropriate Environment Supports Purposeful Living at Any Age 
- Saturday Session with Ruth Neeman

Environments that support healthy aging are residential, inviting and are desirable for all, at any age. Universal Design, that is based on principles of equitable use, flexibility and adaptability, simplicity and clarity, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and appropriate accommodation for a variety of abilities – dovetails beautifully with the Cohousing focus on community, interdependence, friendship, accommodation and support.

A Taste of Dynamic Governance / Sociocracy - Saturday Session with Jerry Koch-Gonzalez

Looking for an effective way to make decisions? Check out this taste of sociocracy, an increasingly popular governance and decision-making method based on the values of transparency, equivalency, and effectiveness. We will have an appetizer of the basic principles. We will gorge on two main courses: a hands-on experience of organizational structure that maximizes participation and empowerment, and a real consent decision-making process of selecting someone to a role. We will close by looking at the dessert menu of the ways feedback keeps a community yummy!

Cohousing Bridging Cultural Divides: Is Valuing Diversity Worth the Brain Damage? Saturday Session with Alan OHashi

Getting along with one another and valuing differences are important skills when joining the American version of cohousing. We're raised to be individuals but at the same time identify with a group. Can cohousing resolve this paradox? In this workshop, participants will be led through a personal journey about how their pasts inform the present and how to move into the future as they create their communities or get to know one another in established communities. When we intend to build a harmonious community, it is sometimes challenging to create a collaborative environment with people who are so different from us. “If only they would understand things the way that I do,” we say to ourselves. “If only.”
Creating community takes commitment. Things do not always turn out the way that we personally envisioned them. Conflicts arise from differences. Feelings are hurt. And yet, we strive to live in communities where people are able to work out their differences and build towards a better whole. This workshop will address these issues for people who are committed to living in successful and diverse communities. Participants will learn skills to assist their forming and existing communities function more efficiently by getting to know their neighbors better using a simple planning strategy to move forward.

Getting the Work Done - Saturday Session with Lyons Witten

How do you get all your community work done? Each cohousing group needs to decide what tasks to include in community work, what system to use to connect each member with their tasks, how to organize meals work in particular, and whether and how to enforce work agreements. In this session, I will explore a wide range of work systems used by existing communities, as well as presenting a framework for understanding the many facets of community work. I will illustrate the breadth of work taken on by most cohousing communities using a “work budget” matrix that can be adjusted to fit your specific community, and will present useful information on how to actually keep your community running smoothly.

Growing Your Group - Saturday Session with Dyan Wiley

Explore the many ways that successful cohousing communities have marketed and promoted their community and the benefits of cohousing. Consider strategies to attract and retain interest and participation -- orientation/meet and greet sessions, local news stories, special events, e-newsletters, and social media tools. Understand the importance of good communication skills, being comfortable with conflict, and other factors contribute to building the social fabric of your membership as you build the physical structures and policy agreements that will support your community over time.

If It Doesn’t Work Socially, Why Bother - Saturday Session with Charles Durrett

Across the globe, we seek ways to make neighborhoods more conducive to living lighter on the planet and being happier. We yearn to let our kids play with the neighbors knowing they are safe. New and “innovative” solutions are trying to solve the senior housing challenge, only to fail due to lack of buy-in from the community. Charles Durrett says, “Forget trying to reinvent the wheel. The answers do exist – it’s a matter of addressing our social beliefs and asking if they will bring us happiness.” Durrett will explain the importance of being authentic and listening to the community when addressing senior and intergenerational housing. He will also explain why crafting a well-fitting glove in a facilitated process is one of the keys to success.

Living and Farming in Community - Saturday Session with Nubanusit Neighborhood & Farm and Stowe Farm Community

Nubanusit Neighborhood & Farm (NN&F) and Stowe Farm Community (SFC) will present and discuss the joys, benefits, challenges, and options of farming in community. The presentation will include information about several other agricultural cohousing communities in the northeast region. Join us as we share stories and lessons learned – and learning!

Meals 3 Times a Week - Saturday Session with Ross Harpestad & Catya Belfer

Well, really it’s 11-13 per month, but who’s counting? Come hear about the Mosaic Commons meals program, from Cat Belfer, cook and kitchen czar, and Ross Harpestad, meals scheduler extraordinaire. Tell us what’s great about how you do meals, what you’re struggling with, what you wish for.

Nathaniel Hawthorne Hated Co-Housing: Our Transcendentalist History - Saturday Session with Samantha Bernstein

This presentation will offer a deep dive into the spiritual ancestor of co-housing: the transcendental Utopian communities of the 1840s. Brook Farm and Fruitlands (both in Massachusetts) will be described, along with a discussion of voluntary simplicity (an essential component of these communities), and how the concept has changed and developed since those communities were founded. An essential question will be posed and discussed: How does co-housing support or not support voluntary simplicity? Presentation is for anyone living in co-housing or thinking about living in co-housing.

Replacement Reserves: Taking the Worry Out of your Community’s Financial Future - Saturday Session with Lyons Witten

A real-life DIY cohousing Replacement Reserves (RR) Spreadsheet will be used to explain the benefits of Replacement Reserves, how to manage the multitude of potential items needing replacement (someday), how Replacement Reserves are funded, what big-ticket items cannot be included in Replacement Reserves and how to manage those expenses. Those who do not have such a spreadsheet can use this example to set up their own. This is a “living DIY model” that should be reviewed each year by the Finance team/committee. Having said that, and shown how to use the “living model”, it may be that some/most communities would want to hire a consultant to help them fill in the categories, costs, and life-expectancy of each item in the RR model. This session will provide insight for either way the DIY RR model is used.

Singing in Community - Saturday Session with Zachary Belfer-Shevett & Catya Belfer

Would you like to sing more in your cohousing group? Come experience how groups use song to grow community. Combining conversation and singing, Zach & Catya will share some great songs that really work well for different cohousing groups. Learn about why "having a good voice" doesn't matter. Learn pitfalls to avoid when selecting songs. Learn about bringing singing into your group's culture. Cat & Zach will create space for songs from participants, so bring your favorite. If possible, contact us beforehand to teach us your song. (Note: we'll not be sharing explicitly religious songs.)

Structure in Community - Saturday Session with Karen Gimnig and Carolyn Shapiro

In this session we'll talk about some of the structures available to cohousing communities including Sociocracy and Imago Relationships tools. We'll briefly describe each one, share our experience with the transformational power these structures can have, how they can be adapted for different groups, and what can be challenging about them. Bring your questions. This will be a time of story telling with just enough explanation to enable you to bring pieces back to your community.

Want Something to Change in Your Community? - Saturday Session with Betsy Waters

With a change you are interested in making in your community in mind, explore organizational development strategies. We will draw heavily from the work of the consultant group, Vital Smarts.