REVISED September 23, 2017. Changes from the original are shown as
strikethroughs and italics.
In a nutshell:
We’re exploring a new concept in co-housing for active and creative aging. We plan to establish a shared residence in downtown Toronto, a home where we remain independent by becoming interdependent.
It will include both private living areas and common space where people 50+ can support each other as we move into later years.
It will be organized as
an equity co-op not-for-profit corporation and self-managed according to co-op principles. Initial members will be full participants in the design and development of the community. (We made the change from equity co-op after legal advice. Incoporation as a not-for-profit provides increased flexibility and no downside.)
We’re planning for an inclusive community of 8 to 12 persons.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who are you guys?
We’re four friends committed to advancing this concept. We represent only ourselves, no other organization or group. More about us.
Why are you doing this?
The most important reason is our desire to form an intentional, supportive community as we age. We’re sociable people. We enjoy lively conversation about all manner of topics. We’re actively engaged in our communities through a wide variety of volunteer activities and leisure pursuits. We want to create a stimulating social environment that will grow with us as we age.
Second, we want to occupy a smaller environmental footprint. A shared home means fewer appliances, for example, and more efficient use of resources. Our home, whether it’s a new build or, more likely, an extensive renovation, will be constructed to the highest feasible environmental standards.
Finally, it’s less of a motivator for us, but we expect our co-housing to be more economical than many alternatives.
What will it cost?
Our planning assumption [in April 2016] is that we may be able to accomplish our goals for a total capital cost of $3 million. Assuming six shares, this represents a per-share cost of about $500,000. A share gives occupancy rights to one or two persons. Toronto home prices
are still escalating and we have much research still to do: You might assume a range of $500,000 to $600,000 to be safe. continued their rapid escalation through the Spring of 2017. In summer months, news headlines reported cataclysmic drops, but these were mostly about drops in the number of sales, not price. By July and August some price drops were reported compared with the previous month. At this writing, however, year-over-year prices show a continued, more modest rate of increase. It’s impossible to predict where they’re going. For those of us already in the real estate market, an increase in purchasing cost may be offset by a comparable increase in our proceeds from sales. Currently, our best “all-in” projection has per-share cost just shy of $700,000. What’s an equity co-op, and what do you mean by “co-op principles?” Co-operatives are a form of incorporation governed in Ontario by the Cooperative Corporations Act. Members of a co-op are joint owners.We’re using the term equity co-op to indicate that the value of member shares in our co-op will appreciate with the real estate market. Co-op principles include: welcoming and open to all; democratic control (one member, one vote); equitable participation in costs and benefits, and contributing to sustainable community. The Ontario Cooperative Association (of which we are “friend” members while we are in development) has produced a “plain language” version of the seven international principles of co-ops (PDF); and we’ve collected some other resources about co-ops in a Word document if you’re interested. Alhough we subscribe to co-op principles, we will not technically be a co-op because we’re choosing to incoporate under a different act. This needn’t concern anyone but the lawyers. We’ll still act the same.
Do you have a location?
Not yet, but we are clear that we want it to be in Toronto, in a highly walkable neighbourhood, with ready access to frequent transit.
When we reach a critical mass of participants (five or six shares) we’ll come to consensus on the neighbourhood or neighbourhoods where we want to focus our search. Think of the boundaries of Bike Share Toronto as a rough guide.
Sorry, nope. (But we may know some people you’d like.)
When will this happen?
We have three shares (or units) committed at this time and we are meeting regularly with a number of individuals who are considering whether they wish to join us. (We say it’s kinda like dating.) We expect it will take us about two years from a “go” decision until we are ready to occupy our home.
Okay, so that was way off. Live and learn.
Over the past year we’ve had a dozen people engaged in exploration (in addition to the four of us who initiated the conversation. Our initial model was to form the community first, engage it in the decision-making and planning, proceed together to acquire and build.
It’s an appealing model, but it has its challenges. Every time a new member comes aboard, for example, the group goes back to square one and starts over. Past assumptions are retested. Relationships have to be rebuilt. It’s very time consuming and, if I haven’t mentioned it before, we’re all getting older.
Equally important, this kind of process is, in some ways, biased against commitment. It’s hard to say ‘yes’ to making an investment of a few hundred thousands dollars in a floorplan yet to be designed, on a property no one has seen, in a neighbourhood as yet unknown.
So we’re moving ahead as four (two shares) enriched by the conversations and perspectives of all those who have participated over the past year. We’ll find a house, buy it, and live in it together while we’re in the planning and approvals stage. At the point where we’re “shovel ready,” with place, plans and pricing all established, we’ll reopen the door to recruitment.
We’re told we should expect it to take at least two years from purchase to building permit, and a similar timeframe for construction.
I’m interested, but not ready to commit.
Perfect! Cuz we’re not actually looking for additional members right now. But we’ve always wanted to encourage others along this path, so we’re happy to have you look on from a distance and share in what we’re learning. Follow us here if you’d like to stay in touch with developments at Wine on the Porch. Or like us on Facebook where we track interesting developments in co-housing more broadly.
Is this some kind of cult?
Other than the wine thing, no. Over time we do expect to form some shared values around things like participating in the community, showing hospitality, supporting each other and generally being good neighbours. It’s a community, not a boarding house. That said, we also respect each other’s privacy and individuality. Diverse experiences and views lead to lively conversation.
Okay, since you mention it, why “Wine on the Porch?”
We want our home to have a porch and we definitely enjoy a glass of wine, but don’t take the name too seriously. Mostly it’s just a light-hearted expression– and it was available! It’s not easy to find a unique name for a free WordPress site these days.