Cohousing vision and values – a model statement from Edinburgh

IT has a potentially galvanising effect on any community-led housing development: a vision and values statement that everyone involved can buy into.

In the particular case of cohousing, aka ‘intentional communities’, such a statement might not only form the basis of how to practically proceed, it can also act as a compelling recruitment tool.

Plus, a reassurance for any local neighbours.

In Edinburgh, a project group has formed as a spin-off to the wider initiative, Cohousing in Southern Scotland (CHOISS), which is pursuing a property being sold by the city council.

Very soon after its formation, the project group created several sub-committees, one of which was to come up with vision and values statement.

Says the hub-committee’s lead, George: “The process of identifying shared values and discussing new perspectives allow us to grow together as a group to develop this initiative.

“Shared values are fundamental to building a cohesive, supportive community, which brings out the best in us all.

“Our values and vision underpin the design and planning of the space we aspire to live in. They reflect our intended ways of being with those in our co-housing community and everyone else we seek to connect with.

“Having established our vision, based upon our shared values, we can more confidently decide the most suitable options for developing the project.

“Our values and vision is also a resource to help demonstrate how our co-housing community will meet local authority requirements, as well as enhancing our community.”

The form of words that emerged from the working group’s deliberations was a version of what CHOISS had come up with, soon after its founding in 2016.

It reads as follows:

“Our vision is to establish an intentional, inter-generational and environmentally-responsible cohousing community at the former Comiston Farmhouse, Fairmilehead, Edinburgh.

Community / membership

“All members will agree to make an effort to build good relationships within the group.

“The future residents will participate in the planning, design and running of the community, and will make an ongoing commitment to the project and to each other.

“In the longer term, we will seek to develop a sustainable community of good neighbours who look out for each other, help each other out, and share skills, resources and fun. 

“We will foster an atmosphere where we look out for each other and commit to accessibility and inclusion for all community members, promoting companionship, mutual respect and environmental awareness. 

“There will be an expectation that all members will contribute a few hours per week to the work of living in the community.

“We will engage positively with our surrounding neighbours in Fairmilehead.

“We will adhere to clear, consensus-based, democratic decision-making and conflict resolution guidelines as outlined in the constitution.

Design

“The physical design of the project will be fully accessible for all ages and abilities and promote casual social contact and encourage a strong sense of community. 

“The housing will respect personal privacy and space and residents will have their own private homes.

“There will also be shared outdoor space, and communal facilities, including a common house or room for community meetings, meals and activities, and a communal garden.  ‘Lifetime Homes’ standard [as detailed, here, on the Wikipedia website] will be used in detailed design.  

“There will be a diversity of houses sizes and models of tenure to ensure affordability, and design will reflect a realistic balance between environmental efficiency and cost.

“The excellent access to good public transport links, including cycle routes, and good access to local amenities means that there will be less need for private cars. 

“Options such as car sharing for residents and neighbours will be provided without prejudice to people with accessibility needs. 

“There will be a realistic space allocated for visitor parking to the east of the farmhouse / at the entrance.

Environment

“The community will be built and run to have as low an impact as possible on the environment – as a response to the climate and ecological emergency.

“Housing will be very energy-efficient and we will reduce our environmental impact by minimising the use of cars, having shared facilities, by growing food in a communal garden, and by innovative energy infrastructure.

“This statement builds on one agreed by CHOISS in January 2017.”

Pictured: the entrance to Braidburn Park, near Comiston Farmhouse, being pursued by the CHOISS sub-group

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