With no available grant funding for non-residential buildings like the common house and guest bedrooms, members have had to come up with a creative solution to this problem. We in the Cohousing Network all know just how important a common house is for social cohesion, yet the vast majority of planners, designers and funders fail to grasp just how important this building is to a cohousing neighbourhood. It is not only a social hub, the ability to share resources means less energy is consumed and is more affordable and sustainable.
“If the single-family house was designed to spread people out across the landscape, then the Common House is designed to bring them back together. And if it seems that the single-family house was designed to consume energy, time and money, then the Common House can be seen as a way of conserving them all.’’ Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett
When we realised that we would have to bear the full cost of construction and fitting out the common house, as well as paying for the two guest bedrooms and repaying some loans that had been raised from friends and family when we bought the second phase of our land back in 2018, we decided to fundraise by launching a Community Share Offer.
Our maximum target is £732,000, which is an eye watering sum of money, but we will be offering a targeted 4% return which we hope will attract investors who want to see their money doing some good in the community, as well as earning them interest. We are using the ethical investment platform Ethex to manage the share offer for us which gives us access to a national database of investors who are familiar with what Community Shares are, and how they differ from company shares.
Community Shares are not covered by the Financial Services Authority so in order to gain confidence that our project has a sound business plan, we have applied for and gained the Community Shares Standard Mark which recognises National standards of good practice. These standards ensure that:
• The offer document and application form are easy to understand
• You are provided with all the facts you need to make an informed decision
• The facts are supported by the annual accounts and/or business plan for the society
• Nothing in the documents is purposefully incorrect, confusing or misleading
Societies are asked to sign a Code of Practice requiring them, among other things, to give the public a right of complaint to the Community Shares Unit.
Our Community Share Offer went live on the 9th July and we have 3 months to raise our maximum target. We have had to put together a Promotional Community Engagement plan which is being implemented by the Publicity sub-circle, a group of members working on communications via social media and using networks of personal contacts. Bridport Cohousing uses Sociocracy as its governance tool and this structure of circles and sub-circles enables the wider membership, using their skills, to actively engage with the work that is needed to be done to get every last brick and timber in place before we move into our new homes.
A word of caution to other projects out there who are thinking of going down this particular road. It involves weeks of meticulous preparation, wording and re-wording many documents which have to satisfy an independent assessor, and has been a frustratingly difficult process at times. However it has shown yet again the strength of commitment and the level of trust within the membership to get the job done. The magic of cohousing at its best!