Osprey Village Cohousing
This project has been put on hold due to a lack of support.
We welcome input from people in the community who would be willing to move this forward as we believe that it is an idea who’s time has come. Thanks to all who have helped with this project in the past. TDK
An Affordable Adult Housing Option
The Osprey Village Vision and Mission
We envision a world that provides lasting security for families with autism. Our mission is to create a community for families, seniors and adults with disabilities living together in a supportive, caring, and affordable environment.
We began in 2012 to think about developing an affordable housing community to support people with autism. We thought of a rural, maybe farm community. The idea was to create something that was not just another “hold your nose” solution but a truly desirable place where we ourselves would want to live and provide for the needs of our families. We began to meet and discuss possibilities for building it with a group of about 20 people and came up with this Mission Statement: Create a safe, affordable, financially sustainable long-term residential cohousing community providing meaningful work, recreation, education, and training for individuals with disabilities and their families. We spent a lot of time researching government grants and programs to finance housing for people with disabilities. It became clear that this was a very complicated and difficult way forward as well as undependable because policies change as administrations change. This dream began to seem like just that, a dream. Then we had an epiphany. We did not have to struggle for funding to create our community. Each family already provides the, transportation, food and support as well as paying rent or a mortgage. If we pool our resources we have the ability to build our dream. Doing this as families is the key to affordability. We are all able to support one household but few can support two. We realized that people were already doing this type of development, they call it cohousing. What is so new about this idea is its fit with the needs of our population. It provides affordability, a supportive and comprehending community and a secure and safe space created and managed by the very families it serves. Our idea is used in senior cohousing where willing adults provide for one anothers needs often informally or with written agreements.
Our vision is of a diverse group of persons of all ages and interests living together in our community of individual homes and common facilities we call Osprey Village Cohousing. It is our intention to support one another with a special focus on supporting persons with disabilities.
So how do we go about doing this?
Personal involvement in the development process is central to making cohousing work. To be successful in this enterprise you must want community, its problems and benefits first. Cohousing demands that people see the value of community for themselves and commit to working together with others to make it happen and in the process the community is formed even before the place is built. This is not something that others can do for us. It is necessarily grass roots and person centered. It also requires an ongoing commitment from the residents to support the community. This is usually done with community workdays where members work to complete a project to benefit all in the spirit of the barn raisings of another time, complete with a party at the end. In addition there is a commitment agreed upon by the members to be engaged in and give time to supporting and managing the community. When developers have tried this without the participation of the residents the community aspects of the project never developed.
Typically cohousing works like this; you gather the community first, agree on a location and a general site plan, then as a group in conjunction with the architect familiar with cohousing you develop the final plan. You come to a consensus on what is to be included. By self-financing, we maintain control of what is included and what is not. This control is crucial if we are to maintain affordability. Later as a group, we approach a bank and get qualified as individuals for a construction loan. In other words, we act in some ways as the developer although most cohousing groups contract with a builder to actually carry out the plan. Whereas most developers are betting on customers liking the product, we have the advantage that these buyers are already committed with down payments! This is an idea whose time has come because it is an answer to the prayers of so many desperate families for an affordable solution to housing and much more. The parents we speak with express a concern for the safety, security and fulfillment of their loved ones. These are almost universal desires of all families and including elders. We see this as part of the solution to the intractable problem of providing affordable long term housing for the rapidly growing population of disabled adults. This solution is not for everyone but for people who wish to solve the long term disability care issue and take some responsibility for the outcome, this is a way forward with the bonus of reconnecting with our neighbors in a meaningful way.
The physical layout is consciously designed to support safety, security and community building. Cohousing is generally laid out as clusters of homes along a common pedestrian way leading to a common house and a parking area at the perimeter. By moving auto traffic to the perimeter and clustering housing, you leave more opportunity for open or green space. Compare the attached plans. Larger images are included below at the end of the document. Just look at the amount of land devoted to roads and driveways in a typical community. Note the different amounts of yellow for autos and medium green for public pedestrian space in the two layouts here.
This pedestrian safe space is almost entirely missing in the typical development. This pedestrian/social space or wild space has many uses all more beneficial to the community than roadway. Changing the focus from auto centered to people centered makes the community much safer for pedestrians, especially distracted ones and with all houses facing the common walkway safety and security are enhanced because the entire community’s eyes are focused on the pedestrian area. The common walkway promotes personal interactions and informal meetings fostering a sense of community. Instead of each person leaving for work or shopping in a car they walk to their cars. Imagine the conversations that are possible given that time together. Shared rides, shared shopping, even travel to activities that are not on campus could become much more efficient when families carpool to them together. Cohousing was originally conceived and designed to provide a safe and secure community to raise children. Now it is being increasingly applied to senior cohousing we see it providing the same for our population.
The created social environment is a major benefit of cohousing. This is at the same time the major challenge of building community. We must take the risk to trust and become engaged with our neighbors in order to create and sustain our project. The prize is a close community brought together by the investment of time and energy required to create the project.
The common house is a center for community activities. See typical common house plan. We will have common meals several times per week served in the great room and cooked in the large commercial style kitchen by community residents including our disabled residents. These are opportunities for families to get together with the larger community and a break from cooking for families with full agendas. It’s a voluntary social event that is just a short walk away. The common house also is the natural place for mailrooms and laundries giving families another opportunity for socialization. This is a place to hold community business meetings as well as a resource for the wider community. Job training and other supports can be provided in the onsite classrooms and kitchen. Service providers have already expressed an interest in coming to our location. That means that 20 to 30 families won’t have to drive 15 to 20 minutes each way to the activity. Just think about the amount of time freed up to do something with family or friends. That’s at least five hours of cumulative time per event! All those miles not driven, all that time not away from family.
Common Houses typically have one or several guest suites. These are used as guest rooms for the resident families reducing the need for guest rooms in the individual homes. In addition, they could be used as housing for college students in exchange for hours of service to our disabled residents. We see these students as a part of the community sharing meals and other social events. Imagine the level of commitment and service as well as training that this would foster for the student. The common house is the community hub. It is a place for residents to meet casually or formally for respite and friendship thus helping to overcome one of the unintended costs of caring for persons with disabilities, the isolation of caregivers.
By building this for the entire family, the parents are either close at hand or living in the same home as their disabled family member. This is a critical matter for some of our parents. We see supporting the parents in this way as wise, they are the tried and true caregivers doing it through their personal commitment. To find an employee that would provide equivalent care even at a price would be truly extraordinary. The family staying together is also critical to making the project affordable as mentioned earlier, by not having to support two households as well as support staff.
We envision many levels of independence possible from the adult with a disability living in the home with the parents or in a “mother in law” suite to living semi independently in a “quad” or even a studio apartment. We are able to consider these options because we as a group are the planners. The fact that the parents would be on hand living in the community would provide an enhanced level of supervision for the adult child at the same time giving peace of mind to the parents. Everyone wins! These could be set up as “quads“ with four to eight individual dorm like rooms around a common kitchen/living space with one of the spaces used by live in person all within the co-housing community. This person could be a student studying disability care or related subjects. The student could be earning credit as well as gaining needed housing in exchange for basic oversight of the “quad”. Everyone wins! The adult residents get support from an engaged and understanding person and the student gains experience and housing. Being in a cohousing environment there is the additional opportunity for inclusion of the student in the common meals and events of the common house. The additional engagement promotes a greater connection and commitment on the part of the student. This is the reported experience of similar arrangements in senior cohousing communities. Another model has the student living in the common house guest suites and attending to one or several clients living in studio or one bedroom apartments in the community with similar benefits.
In the interests of bringing more diversity to the community studios or one bedroom units could be made available to individuals that needed only limited support. We intend to invite and include seniors in our community for the valuable contributions that they bring. We look forward to exploring the possibilities around combining the three groups; neuro-typical families, elders and persons with disabilities in an integrated community. The possibilities are almost boundless, with each group meeting some need of another. For instance we see many seniors with time and a desire to give meaning to their lives, engaged in activities giving attention to persons with disabilities to their mutual benefit or persons with disabilities assisting an elder with daily tasks. This is aside from the documented benefits of socialization and intergenerational interactions for all people. By moving the care from an entirely “for pay” model to one that blends pay with providing opportunities for the personal fulfillment of all of our community members we do two things. We make the community more affordable and at the same time build community. We intend to use some of the ideas developed by Generations of Hope Communities. They provide housing for retirees at a reduced rate in exchange for volunteering hours helping children adopted out of foster care. They report inspiring outcomes for all involved. See this link. http://www.npr.org/2015/08/04/429219678/at-hope-meadows-in-illinois-older-adults-help-families-care-for-foster-children
More from Hope Meadows Seniors
More than two-thirds of the Hope Meadows seniors responded in a recent survey that their health had been positively impacted by their move to Hope Meadows. Creating that sense of purpose in retirement is just one of the GHC model’s transformative abilities. “This is something that just means so much to us,” remarks David Netterfield, a senior living at Hope Meadows with his wife, Carol. “We just love telling people about it. As we say, it’s not quite heaven. It’s Hope.” His voice oozes emotion when he recalls one of his frequent visits to Hope Meadows before making the final decision to move there, “One of the teens came home from school and saw us there AGAIN. He came right up to me and said, ‘Will you please move here so you can be my grandparents?’” Indeed, they did become close when the Netterfields moved to Hope Meadows in 2008.
This is something we intend to incorporate in our community to the benefit of both the seniors parents and the disabled adults.
In summary, four of the major advantages of this model are
- Its financial feasibility, affordability and scalability,
- The security and community created by the physical layout
- The social benefits of a cohousing community with its understanding neighbors will be a tremendous support for persons with autism and their families
- The central location for services will be a boon to families with a full agenda and many demands.
We have not even touched on the ecologic and economic benefits of this lifestyle that include shared tools, cars, and other possessions that make sense to have in common. This foundation is just the beginning limited only by our interest and imaginations.
We invite you to join us on this journey.
Adonis Autism Inc.
Community resource list:
McCamant and Durret Architects, the folks that brought cohousing to our shores.
Wonderland Hill Development another major supporter of cohousing.
“Creating Cohousing” and “Senior Cohousing”
The Cohousing Handbook, By Chris Hanson.
Pocket Neighborhoods , By Ross Chapin
Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities By Diana Leafe Christian
Generations of Hope
Generations of Hope Video