The “at a glance” newsletter recently published by the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund highlights three of the fifteen new loan agreements they’ve entered into over the past year. One of the three is Rocky Corner. They write, “A loan in September . . . helped make Connecticut housing history by providing acquisition funds to Rocky Corner, the first cohousing community to be built in the state.”
Imagine that you lived in a 6,000-square-foot-house on a 33-acre estate. Think of all that space! Now think of heating and maintaining that house and tending to all that land, most of which you’re not using most of the time. And think about the mortgage, too. That’s a lot of house and land to pay for.
Still, big houses have their attractions. You can host large parties. You have room for your exercise equipment and your art studio and your woodworking shop and a soccer field in the backyard.
But suppose—just suppose—that you lived in a 6,000-square-foot house on a 33-acre estate but were only paying for about 1,200 square feet and an acre.
Well, that’s the way cohousing works. At Rocky Corner, you’ll live in a house that’s around 1,000 square feet (or a little smaller or somewhat larger, depending on the home you choose), and you’ll also pay for one-thirtieth the cost of a 5,000 square foot common house and the 33-acre property. And you’ll be responsible for that same fraction of the work and cost of maintaining it, instead of having to do it all yourself.
You’ll have full use of all of it. Yes, so will everyone else, but you can’t be everywhere at once, so presumably it’s okay with you if one of your neighbors is using an area you’re not using. That’s a small price to pay for having full enjoyment of the common property most of the time.
Your own house will have everything you need for day-to-day living—when you’re not hosting that big party or doing that big woodworking project. You’ll have a kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom (or two or three) and a bath or two. And, really, aren’t those the rooms where you spend most of your time? The common house will have a large kitchen and a large dining room, a lounge, a big workshop, and multipurpose rooms for other activities. There will be a play area for kids, space for exercise, dance, yoga, craft projects, and more. It’s up to us as residents to decide how it’s used and to plan for other, smaller facilities we might want to build later.
Outdoors there will be plenty of space for your personal gardens and for community gardens, for farming activities (if you’re interested in farming), for all kinds of recreation, and for quiet meditation, if that’s your preference.
Bottom line: Cohousing is a great economic bargain for everyone who lives there. You get much more than you pay for.
How do Americans usually buy a home? How have you bought a home in the past?
The most common scenario is that you go to a real estate agent, give her an idea of your price range, say what area you’re interested in (for the schools or for the shopping, usually), and look at some pictures. You visit a few of the homes that look attractive in the pictures, and you pick out the one you like best. New furnace, roof is in good shape, you like the color and the nicely mowed lawn, and you love the stainless steel refrigerator. Best of all, it’s in your price range. Sold!
Then you meet the neighbors.
Most people are pretty nice, and you probably get along fine with your neighbors. But you don’t know that until after you move in. And maybe you’re not so lucky in that regard.
Even if your neighbors are nice enough people, do you have anything in common with them? Do you invite each other over for dinner? Do you help each other out with projects? Do your kids play together? Do you do more than wave at each other from your cars if you happen to be leaving for work at the same time or wave across the fence if you’re both clearing your own sidewalks with your own snowblowers?
When you buy a home in a cohousing neighborhood, you get to know your neighbors first—before you decide you want to live there. And you can look forward to living in a community where shared work and shared meals—and shared snowblowers—are a common feature, not a special occasion.
Which makes more sense—picking the house first and meeting the neighbors after, or getting to know your neighbors before you decide to buy the house?
Many of us who want to live at Rocky Corner have been reading about and visiting passive houses. Passive houses have been built for years in Europe but they are uncommon in the U.S.
Passive house is the type of design we are working towards for our homes and common house. This design differs greatly from standard American building practices. Passive house design includes: smaller homes, orientation towards the sun, concrete floors that hold and slowly disperse the solar heat, thicker wall and roof insulation, as well as energy-efficient windows, doors, heating and cooling systems.
One of the reasons we hired Centerbrook Architects is for their experience and dedication to design that considers environmental impact. Their knowledge is invaluable to Rocky Corner. Our architect, Melissa Kops, earned a certificate in Sustainable Design and is LEEDS AP and Living Future Institute Accredited.
Rocky Corner’s design committee is working very hard right now trying to balance the construction costs with energy efficiency. We may not achieve the pure, strict passive house standard (mainly due to expense) BUT we are determined to end up with comfortable, efficient buildings that we will happily live in for decades. Melissa is projecting that our neighborhood will be Energy Star certified.
If you or anyone you know is asking: Why are the homes small?
The answer is multifold: Our Rocky Corner homes will be smaller than most American homes and ultimately less expensive to live in. The money to buy a home at Rocky Corner pays for your house plus an additional 4500+ square feet of living space (the common house) and 33 acres of gardens, pastures and play areas.
If you or anyone you know is asking: Why aren’t the blueprints completed yet? or Why don’t we know how much the houses will cost?
The answer is: Planning a neighborhood that will be beautiful, long-lasting and energy-efficient takes time, thought, knowledge and expertise.
With Melissa Kops, Dave Berto (our housing consultant) and architect-trained member, Charlotte Hitchcock on our team, we have all those attributes and more, so hang in there!
In the meantime, here are four cool sites to check out:
Submitted by Marie Pulito, Member of Rocky Corner Cohousing
Some of us have been part of this group for more than seven years. Yesterday, all the hard work began to pay off. WE CLOSED ON THE PROPERTY.
Green Haven, Inc. is the proud new owner of the land where the Rocky Corner cohousing community will rise.
We’re having a party Thursday (tomorrow) to celebrate. Bring snacks, the beverage of your choice, and maybe a lawn chair to sit in, and join us from 5 to 7 pm at the Rocky Corner site in Bethany.
But getting back to the closing and what it means . . .
Since receiving final zoning board approval in June, we’ve been hard at work on the next steps. So far, we have
- Obtained a $263,000 loan from the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund, which we closed on yesterday, to help us purchase the land
- Closed on the property purchase
- Received a commitment from the Connecticut Department of Housing for a $281,000 predevelopment loan
- Received a commitment from another funding organization (to be announced when the loan closes) for an additional $250,000 in predevelopment funds
- Contracted with a construction manager (PAC Group) to help with the final design decisions that will enable us to announce home prices and to manage the actual construction of our homes beginning next spring
- Worked with Centerbrook Architects and PAC Group to nail down the floor plans for our homes and the common house (we’ll have something to show soon)
- Met with the first few potential construction lenders to introduce our project to them (we have several more such meetings in the offing)
These are heady times. This project is really going to happen, and it’s going to happen soon.
Within the next few months we’ll be able to show floor plans and pricing. We can then offer purchase and sale agreements. So if you are thinking of becoming part of the Rocky Corner community, now is the time to get involved.
- Start organizing your financial records so that you can apply for mortgage prequalification (don’t get the prequalification too soon, because it will expire)
- Get in touch with the welcoming and membership committee about becoming a member of the community, a prerequisite to purchasing a home
I look forward to seeing you tomorrow and the tomorrows after that.
“You’re not going to have basements or garages!! What will I do with all of my stuff??”
In talking to people who might be interested in living at Rock Corner I have come across a group that can’t seem to get past the idea of a smaller home with less space to store stuff.
There will always be people who need to hold onto things that they really never interact with. Personally, I have just recently been able to let go of art that my brother created. He died 18 years ago. Clearly, we emotionally connect to some of our stuff.
Then there is the idea of not letting go of anything that we could possibly use later.
‘Oh, I could use that to make…’
‘Remember when we were looking for something just like that….’
‘If we had to buy this in the future it would cost…’
Many people of my generation are actually storing stuff for others especially our kids who have moved far away or haven’t quite yet found a permanent place to settle down.
For someone like myself who has definitely decided to live at Rocky Corner and enthusiastically looks forward to downsizing, I still have a few concerns.
1) I want to put all my craft supplies into the common-house craft-room but so do Marge and Nancy and Char and Rich…
2) We have 10 shovels in the barn. I can’t give up mine.
3) How do we design the common house so it isn’t cluttered with furniture?
4) Where do I place all my bookcases and books when my passive solar house has so many walls with windows?
Here are a few sites to check out:
Let’s start talking about this more.
And let’s challenge Centerbrook to help us design with “multi-use, simple, uncluttered” in mind.
Rocky Corner future resident!
Woke up this morning to the sounds of hawks and blue jays and an occasional wood thrush. I live in Bethany in the woods.
A few minutes later I found myself in our barnyard surrounded by animals; ducks at my feet, our white cat climbing a tree, chickens scratching the dirt outside the fence, alpacas eating the leaves of a sassafras tree.
I had already gathered chicken and duck eggs, and I had crouched to feed the ducks handfuls of kibble directly into their water bowl. The male duck, Big Al, allowed the females to eat first. The alpacas love to eat green leaves, so I had enticed them to trot after me by lowering the branches of the sassafras tree so they could reach them. I always shake the branches so the rustling sound makes them come running. The alpacas’ bouncing, furry topknots made me smile.
The ducks are on to dessert finding slugs to eat underneath the wet hay. The alpacas, Alfie and Dave, are exhaling in my face; their breath has the sweet smell of root beer.
What could be better than this? Having all of this and more at Rocky Corner Cohousing.
At Rocky Corner I could have cooked my eggs with others in the common house, taught someone how to identify a sassafras tree from its mitten-shaped leaves, found a helper for mucking out the barn. I could have waved to neighbors commuting to work together and other friends weeding the vegetables before the heat of the day arrives.
Community and nature together; nothing could be better than that for me.
Marie Pulito – Member of Rocky Corner cohousing
Want to get some good exercise helping rid a natural area of a noxious pest species? One of the conservation easements manages by the Bethany Land Trust has a significant amount of Japanese barberry encroaching on about nine acres of it. There’s an ongoing project to clear out the barberry. Work is taking place generally on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings for the foreseeable future. Contact Carole Lambiase if you can put in a few hours, and she’ll fill you in on location and directions. Bring a metal leaf rake, heavy gloves, hearing protection (the brush cutter is noisy, although you won’t be the one operating it). Wear sturdy shoes, socks, long pants, and bug spray.
Time magazine’s cover story this week is The Smarter Home.
One brief entry that I found facinating is about the town of Rikuzentakata, Japan. The town was hit by a tsunami in 2011. Emergency shelters for families were tiny prefab containers that were just big enough for bedroom space. Villagers started missing the spaces in their homes where people could relax, entertain and ultimately foster a sense of community again. Pritzer Prize winning architect, Toyo Ito, ended up creating a Home-for-ALL concept. Like a cohousing common house, the Home-for-All is a building that serves as this small fishing village’s gathering space.
Here is another story from Time about a section of Austin, Texas, called Mueller, which is a planned green community. America’s smartest city???
Marie Pulito -member of Rocky Corner Cohousing
Watch for Rocky Corner at CitySeed farmers’ markets across New Haven starting next week. Members will be on hand to answer questions and give out material on our sprouting cohousing community in Bethany.
You’ll find the Rocky Corner information table at the downtown market on the New Haven Green, the Fair Haven Market, the Hill market near Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Edgewood Park market. We’ll have materials in English and Spanish and time to answer all your questions.
See you at the market!
Rocky Corner gathers at site
We had beautiful weather and great food for our potluck on June 8, 2014, at the Rocky Corner site — our first event after zoning approval from the town of Bethany. Rich got everyone up to date on moving our community forward and we welcomed exploring members, allies and friendly neighbors alike!
Imagine coming home every day to a community where every neighbor is a familiar face and everyone has chosen to live in a cooperative, sustainable manner. That’s the promise of Rocky Corner, Connecticut’s first co-housing community. Rocky Corner is part of an international movement called co-housing, and the community is coalescing now around goals including:
- To live sustainably and affordably
- To know our neighbors, balancing private space and community resources
- To balance the urban and rural lifestyle
Join our mailing list to find out more and get updates on this exciting project.