Cohousing is a Danish concept that came to the United States in the late 1980’s and is quickly gaining momentum across the country. Members own individual homes and maintain their privacy and autonomy while sharing meals, activities, facilities and, most important, a community spirit.
Pioneer Valley Cohousing began in 1989 with an ad in a local newspaper seeking families and individuals interested in building such a community. In the summer of 1994, after five years of planning and building, our 84 members moved into their homes.
Demographics (numbers are approximate, as we change)
Number of adults: 70
Number of children: 15
Number of renters: 20
Parcel size: 22 acres
Number of Homes: 32
Unit sizes: 616 to 1600 square feet
Homes are clustered on about six acres of the site and oriented around a pedestrian walkway. Standard designs were developed, but all units were customized, to some extent. There are eight detached homes, nine duplexes, and two triplexes.
The 4500-square-foot common house includes a kitchen, dining room, living room, small meeting room, library, children’s room, and two guest rooms. There is also a large, finished basement with a laundry room, sauna, games room, a meeting/meditation space, a food pantry, exercise room, root cellar, and take-it-or-leave-it room.
Four member households financed a home office building across the green from the common house. Community members built a 1600-square-foot annex, with space for crafts, woodworking, bike and car repair and equipment storage for community use.
Governance and Decision Making
The community’s Governance structure and consent decision making process are adaptations of a form of governance known as Dynamic Governance/Sociocracy. (For more information, Google the term “sociocracy” or ask any member of the community to direct you to those who have been trained in that approach).
Get ‘er Done
Cohousing is typically member managed. Pioneer Valley Cohousing is no exception to this. In fact, we take care of just about all our community maintenance except regular trash pickup, roofing and other major construction. The community has even purchased a truck for the primary purpose of snow plowing driveways and parking lots.
To accomplish the work of our community and build personal relationships, we have evolved a decision making and work management structure based on Dynamic Governance/Sociocracy that includes work groups known as “Circles.” Community members join Circles based on their preferences and community needs. These Circles set policy and outline plans, in addition to doing regular work, maintenance and special projects. The work includes cooking, cleaning, gardening, building repairs, snow plowing, bookkeeping, organizing play and social activities, and much more!
Many large or seasonal projects get done on several scheduled “work days” throughout the year when members work part or all of a day, with childcare and meals provided.
Meals are prepared and served by community members every Monday and Wednesday evening. Planning, preparation and clean-up are all done by the members. There is an occasional Sunday Brunch, pot-luck, or special meal arranged.
Half to three-quarters of our members dine at meals regularly, and there are frequent guests. Often, meals are planned around the produce from our organic garden.
We put special effort into meeting a diverse set of needs around meals, including options for vegetarian, non-dairy and gluten-free dishes at most meals.
Membership (Some people are in more than one category.)
Member households are families and individuals who own and/or live in their units permanently.
People on the waiting list have completed the requirements for membership and are waiting to buy houses as they become available.
Associates/Renter associates are active in community life and contribute work, support and a regular fee to the community but do not own a house here.
Renters are temporary residents, living in the homes of member households. Most renters participate to some degree in community life.
Dated: May 2020