Who’s in charge?

All the members of ChaCo!

ChaCo is run democratically by its members and we make all our decisions by consensus. This means that if you want something to happen, you can make a proposal to the general meeting and do your best to make it happen. If you are not sure how to go about it, other members will probably be happy to support you. We appreciate that some people have more time, confidence and energy to take responsibility for managing ChaCo. Still, the more members get on board the better our community becomes: more democratic, with many new ideas and perspective and many hands on deck.

Do I get free childcare?

No. But you can expect your neighbours to want to help out if they can, and some of our members really enjoy looking after young children. But this depends on the relationships you will develop with other members and is not something we formally offer as part of ChaCo.

Are there lots of rotas?

Probably! We’ll find out exactly how many rotas we need once we live together, but we can already say that some jobs need doing and we expect all members to take part in running the community.

This is what living in community is about: working with others to create this friendly, collective environment where we all belong. By doing your share you’ll get to know other members, have a real say and be part of the community. For example, in other communities members are expected to work with cleaning at least 3 times a year, attend community decision making meetings and take part in one team such as admin, process, gardening, kitchen, maintenance, learning and more. Getting involved in the running of the community is the best way to feel you belong, so the rotas are not just a burden but the stuff community building is made of.

Do I have to cook for everyone?

No. Unless you want to, of course. There are plenty of things to do to make the community flourish so if cooking is not your strength you can always offer help with washing up, gardening or admin. On the other hand, if you choose to put your name down as a helper in the kitchen you may learn some new cooking skills from community members who like cooking.

Do I have to eat communal meals?

No. All the houses have kitchens and if eating together is not your style you can choose not to turn up to our communal meals. Having said that, eating together is a great way to know your neighbours better, have nice food without having to cook it, and have a night out in your slippers.

What’s the difference between cohousing and a housing co-op?

Cooperative is an ownership and management model, and cohousing is a type of community living. This may sound a bit confusing, because while some cohousing projects may choose to be co-ops, cooperatives are not necessarily cohousing.

A housing cooperative means that the houses are owned by the cooperative and all members have an equal say in the management of the housing, regardless of their share in the properties.

Cohousing means that members have their own private space with access to shared facilities like the shared garden and common house, with shared meals and collective decision making.

In most housing cooperatives members simply rent their houses from the co-op. ChaCo is a cohousing and a cooperative, but lets members own up to 99% of their home; our cooperative owns the land, our rented properties and a certain percentage of each house. This model protects our project from real estate speculations and secures its affordability for the long run.

What is a 'common house'?

The common house is the heart and hub of every cohousing community and ours is no exception.

Cohousing can be defined as

people living together in neighbourhoods designed for community interaction and personal privacy.

In nearly all cohousing projects, most of those community interactions take place in the common house – where most of the shared resources are gathered. Typically, the common house includes a kitchen and shared dining space, a laundry, post room and guest rooms.

As well as these, ChaCo plans to have a play room and workshop – and until we get round to building ourselves a shed for the workshop, we’re going to have to be creative with Transformer™ style guest rooms that magically morph with a few deft moves to allow other uses.

Our common house occupies the 150m2 ground floor space beneath three of our 2-bed duplexes next to the car park at the north of our site. It’s designed to be within easy reach of all the houses and flats across the shared garden.

How are the houses heated?

Nothing particularly unconventional. Every unit has its own combi gas boiler.

The government is planning to ban gas boilers in new homes from 2025, but we didn’t know that at the time we were putting our specification together, and gas was the most cost-effective solution for us.

We decided we wanted the most energy-efficient homes we could afford, so went for a “fabric-first” solution with the emphasis on insulation and air-tightness, with waste heat recirculated via an MVHR system. So although we’re going to be burning fossil fuels, we’re anticipating a 70% reduction in carbon emissions compared with typical buildings of the same size.

Will there be a workshop?

Yes. It’s shown on the drawings that the Planners approved and our Transport Plan commits us to providing somewhere to fix bikes.

In practice, we’ll be building a proper workshop ourselves once the dust has settled after our move into our new homes. So for the first year or so, we’ll probably commandeer one of our two guest rooms as a temporary workshop.

The idea is to have a well-equipped place where we can make and repair stuff: bikes, furniture, artwork, toys, models… whatever anyone’s into. A cohousing community can be a great environment for inter-generational sharing of skills and know-how while maximising the opportunities for having fun together.

Do I get my own garden?

Yes and no.

If your unit has direct ground-floor access – ie: all the houses and all the 1-bed flats – then you’ll have a small area immediately outside your back door that’s “your” bit of the garden, even if it’s not fenced off.

People living in 2-bed duplexes have a generous-sized balcony that would suit outdoor potted plants and bushes.

People in 3-bed duplexes would need to be more creative to maximise what little growing space they have immediately outside their homes.

However, all ChaCo members have access to the shared garden and growing space, with additional food-growing opportunities in our innovative metre-wide, chest-height, gossip-friendly raised beds incorporated into the east boundary wall of our property.