Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
CoHoMadison is a CoHousing community in Madison, WI that just recently completed construction and we envision following in their footsteps. For a glimpse of what Oak Park Intergenerational CoHousing will resemble at the completion of our project and FAQs for their specific project, please check out www.cohomadison.com and their FAQ!
What is Cohousing?
Great question! We have an entire page dedicated to answering that question here!
Is this like a commune?
Not at all! Whereas in a commune, the members share all property and resources, in cohousing, each household owns their own unit or house. Think of it like a condominium with shared spaces and greater community interaction and involvement. You can modify your own property as you like and sell your unit or house as you please.
What are the benefits of cohousing?
We live in a society in which we may be acquainted and friendly with our neighbors, but rarely interact with them beyond exchanging greetings. The result is a society in which individuals and family units are often socially isolated and lacking a sense of community. In co-housing, shared spaces, shared meal times, and social gatherings increase a sense of inter-connectedness among residents. Diverse residents interact (seniors and children, members from different backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds) in a vibrant social environment that promotes a sense of belonging. Shared resources reduces costs to each household (think of only needing one lawnmower for the entire community or less clutter with kids sharing toys with other kids), and shared cooking responsibilities frees up time, up to several days each week, for each household.
What are the drawbacks of cohousing?
Similar participating in any community, a cohousing arrangement requires members to adapt, accommodate, and compromise with other members for the good of the community. The community will have a consensus decision-making system in place prior to the doors opening to the community to ensure an orderly decision making process. Additionally, commitments to community meetings and shared meals may impact a household's sense of privacy when compared to living in a single-family home.
Building Design and Construction
What is the timeline for building the community?
Oak Park Intergenerational CoHousing is working off of a three-year development timeline illustrated here. We are presently in the community-building phase in which we aim to reach 15 committed households (currently there are 11 committed households) which will initiate the site selection and design phase of the timeline.
What will the building look like and what features will it have?
While the site selection and architectural design process has not concluded, the building aims to fulfill the following principles:
I. The physical design of shared common spaces (e.g., mail room, fireplace, dining area) will foster social interaction among residents.
Preparing and sharing meals on a regular basis in a common dining area (voluntary, periodic)
Coordinating social interaction, barter and labor exchange for services among residents
Common space will include space for gardening, child play and guest rooms
II. Pursue a building design, development strategy and organizational structure that enables moderate, middle and upper income households to become members
Members may pay less for smaller dwelling units with fewer amenities and more for larger units
Institutional relations with Village agencies secures rent subsidy for select units & households
III. The residential buildings will be developed on a location near public transportation and pedestrian accessible shops and services.
IV. Promote and adopt energy conservation practices in the physical construction, maintenance and use of the building and facilities.
Where will the building be located?
A construction site has not yet been selected. The Development-Design team has worked with the village of Oak Park to identify potential building sites and continues to work on site details at its monthly meetings.
How much will units cost in the community?
While the final costs for units depend heavily upon the location of the site of the building, allocations of space within the building, and construction costs, we estimate that final unit price will be close to market price for new construction in Oak Park, IL. The building will be energy efficient and sustainable assuring healthful ventilation. Additionally, the economic savings for cohousing households comes as members adopt ways to use social interaction, walking, cycling, meal sharing, childcare, elder care, joint food purchasing, carpooling and shared building maintenance to substitute or supplement purchases for socializing, eating, entertainment, travel and social care. Substantial substitution can yield 10 to 20 percent savings in annual household expenditure ($6000 to $12000 for a $60000 household income).
Why are the housing costs for cohousing units greater than for similar size units in older existing buildings?
There are several reasons why new construction costs more than existing units: New construction meets stricter codes. Current construction costs are higher than what it cost to build a unit 50 or a 100 years ago. Amenities and finishing for new units are more extensive and better quality compared to existing homes. Lastly, our commitment to shared common areas increases unit prices as each unit absorbs a portion of common area cost.
What can we do to reduce housing costs?
Unit prices may increase or decrease depending on the decisions we make. Unit prices for existing cohousing projects usually sell at new construction average market rate or higher. There are some things we might do to reduce unit price.
Collectively we may decide to reduce the size and scope of the shared common area space to create an additional unit (750 sf) or even two (1500 sf). These unit price reduction measures, however, reduce our commitment to a more diverse community. The more equity funds we collectively invest at the beginning of the project to fund development and construction, the more interest savings we can realize reducing overall financing cost.
Individually we may choose less expensive finishes for our unit than otherwise available. Prices may also vary with respect to location in the building. Units less well placed may be priced lower than those in prime locations.
What will be the ownership structure?
Oak Park Intergenerational CoHousing will be structured as a condominium. Each unit will be individually owned, with the common areas jointly owned and collectively managed by the owners’ association. Members may modify their own units asthey would any privately owned condominium unit and may sell their unit as they please.
What is the process for becoming a member?
Prospective members should attend a general meeting held the first Tuesday of each month at the Oak Park Public Library see here for details. Upon deciding to join the group, a one-time $200 commitment fee is due. The funds are utilized for maintaining the website, paying for advertising, and other necessary organizational expenses. Finally, upon commitment, members should join one of five committees (Membership, Design-Development, Legal, Finance, and Process) to contribute to the community-building effort.
How are decisions made and disputes adjudicated within the community?
The founding members and Development Committee are the primary decision-makers regarding the community at this time. Input from other members may be accepted at a later date.