Baba Yaga: The witch that became a cohousing development

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;
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.


2 thoughts on “Baba Yaga: The witch that became a cohousing development”

  1. Hi there,
    I’m so happy to hear there are groups out there making this kind of living space work or planning it. I just turned 65 and I am currently living in Thailand. But I feel no sense of community. In reality, I know this will not work forever. There is no good public transportation, and the restrictions on retirees working make it impossible to improve my life style. In fact, if the cost of living increases, I am wondering where else I can go. It’s not my ideal situation.
    Why does a senior community appeal to me? I think a community can combine their skills to make life more fulfilling for everyone. I envision sharing cooking and gardening, and having companions for biking, hiking, or get getting together to exercise. On a personal level, I would like enough personal space to not to just sleep but relax and read or have other quiet activity. I would want a fast reliable internet connection, because I am just getting into online writing and want to continue that.
    My dream has been to also have a shared space where people who don’t have studio space in their home can come and work or learn. They could use equipment like big work tables, sewing machines and related tools; a cozy space for knitting or crocheting, even spinning; a small kitchen for preparing tea and snacks, a small classroom space for teaching crafts; maybe even a separate space for doing dye work. A small thing, but far more than I could ever afford to do on my own. I think this is the kind of thing that could happen in a community and could even provide some income by giving classes or renting space to outsiders.
    Do you think I could fit in? It seems like this could work in an abandoned school or other large building.
    I’d like to hear more about this project. Although, I have a feeling you are going to get way more responses than you have space for.
    Do keep me informed if you could accept someone like me.

  2. All this sounds wonderful, along the thoughts I have entertained for a while now, ever since hearing about Baba Yaga on the radio. I too am creative, artistic and active (I’m an estate head gardener with a degree in horticulture) and enjoy classical music. I am currently living in a rural area 2 hours north of Toronto. Tonight the Seven Sisters were shining clearly in the night sky. I would miss that in the city with light pollution. So wondering if there are any other country mice out the interested in this cohousing concept, but in a little more rural setting?

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