Had a good conversation yesterday with Beth Komito-Gottlieb, the interim chair of Baba Yaga Place, another Toronto group that’s working on a different sort of cohousing concept.
In Russian folklore, Baba Yaga is the fearsome witch with iron teeth. She lives in a hut perched on chicken legs. By the time it got to France, Babayagas’ House had morphed into 25 self-contained flats for senior women who want to live in community and support each other as they age. It opened in 2013, with funding of four million euros from various levels of the French government.
In Canada, another group modelled on the French development has become even more inclusive. Its principles include:
Governance: A self-managed model where key decisions are made by the residents themselves;
Feminism: Commitment to equality, equity, and social justice, with a particular focus on the empowerment of women;
Interdependence : Respect for each other’s personal autonomy and privacy, while supporting each other;
Community engagement: Involvement with the political, social, and cultural life of the broader community; and
Environmental responsibility: Commitment to environmental sustainability and environmental justice.
Those are good principles!
Baba Yaga Place in Canada is now sharing its vision with others. Beth tells me it could include as many as 30 units and may form part of a larger development — maybe two or three floors dedicated to Baba Yaga in a high rise condo development, for example, or part of a surplus school no longer in use.
As part of the group’s focus on the empowerment of women, the largest percentage of those units will be reserved for single women, with a smaller number reserved for couples or single men.
“We do still live longer,” Beth points out, “so there are more of us as we age. And older women are more often vulnerable, more often living in isolation or poverty.” Because of this, Baba Yaga is also exploring ways to subsidize the units when necessary.