SOA have gathered a series of Research Questions from our 2019 events. We will be working to answer these in 2020.
• What is the first source of funding an Irish cohousing group should/can seek?
• Which foreign cohousing financing models are most readily adaptable to the Irish context?
• What equity will be required of Cohousing Groups in Ireland in order to obtain mortgage/bank funding?
• What is the role of Credit Unions in funding cohousing in Ireland? Both in terms of current possibilities and future potential.
• How can pension funds be mobilised to support cohousing projects?
• How do group members unlock collateral if they (some) already own their home?
• How can an ‘Ethical’ banking option be created and sustained in an Irish sized market?
• What exactly are Clann Credo and Community Finance Ireland’s capabilities and requirements in terms of funding cohousing?
• To what extent can sweat equity be seen as a measurable asset to a lending institution? Where is sweat equity best employed?
• What strategies can communities use to crowdfund from their own networks?
• What is the role of Bonds in funding projects? (Bonds bring saving and lending together and are low-risk investments for savers. Discussion ongoing in Ireland about a National Bond.)
• What is the relationship between various ownership structures, and the financial model which is used to fund a project?
• What can budding groups do without funding? At what point(s) in project does external funding become essential?
• What are the various financial landmarks throughout a cohousing project? (ie. points when significant payments must be made.)
• At what point/level are commercial banks willing to enter this market?
• To what extent will ‘liquidity ratios’ impact on banks abilities to lend to cohousing groups?
• What is the scope of financial advice which a Local Authority/Housing Hub can/should offer to CoHousing Groups? Can groups be assisted in preparing a Business Plan?
• At what point in a live/work project do commercial rates become a factor?
• Noted that: “Feasibility of sites is important in terms of approaching financial institutions. Rigour in site choice required.” What ‘feasibility’ requirements do banks have, what site conditions do/don’t meet these requirements typically?
• What strategies can communities use to crowdfund from their own networks?
• What possibilities/restrictions lie in loanstock options?
SPECIFIC FUNDING STREAMS
• What funding can Local Authorities access externally (ie. from EU) to support cooperative cohousing initiatives?
• What role can the CASS scheme play in rural cohousing development?
• What potential funding streams from Rebuilding Ireland could be employed?
• Are there charitable Trusts/philanthropic investors in Ireland which might contribute to funding a cooperative cohousing project?
• Are there urban/rural renewal grants available which Irish cohousing groups can avail of?
• What advice and support can Indecon Consultancy provide regarding the possibilities of creating a bank in Ireland which acts in the public interest?
• How can an ‘Ethical’ banking option be created and sustained in Irish sized market?
• What are the requirements to obtaining funding from the HBFI for construction phase?
• How will the assets of the cohousing group be taxed if the ownership of dwellings is not individualised but held mutually?
• How will ownership of shares in a cohousing group be dealt with in a means tested application for HAP or rent allowance?
• Which policy changes are essential to facilitate cohousing in Ireland, and which would be nonessential but beneficial?
• Part V Commitment: Can cohousing groups be allowed allocate their own 10% of housing to those on the social housing list from within their own membership?
• How can CoHousing synergise with and potentially benefit from funding from other Policy Sectors? (ie. Energy, Mobility, Health, New Neighbourhoods.) Where are the common interests between private/public?
• How can benefits of cohousing/community-led be scientifically/sociologically evaluated with a view to encouraging evidence based future decision-making?
• How can the bureaucracy which a cohousing group must engage with be streamlined, in terms of access to land, funding, and technical support?
• Would a Community Land Trust fall under Public Procurement rules? Either for the masterplan or for individual buildings? (If not publicly funded.)
FORMATION OF A COMMUNITY LAND TRUST
• What are the possibilities for mobilising church-owned land towards cohousing? Who is the appropriate entity/person to ask about this?
• Where does the initial parcel of land typically come from? Compare examples abroad.
• In what ways can the Land Development Agency facilitate the creation of a Community Land Trust, particularly in terms of allocation of land?
• What guarantees/criteria would a State body require in order to offer land to a CLT? What is required of projects abroad?
• Is there value to forming a Community Land Trust before any land is available?
• What supports are available from the Interreg SHICC programme for the formation of a Land Trust in Ireland?
• What are the initial costs of setting up a Trust?
• What are the advantages/disadvantages of a CLT from a Local Authority/State perspective?
• What management structures can/should the CLT founders adopt to manage the land?
• What specific measures can be put in place at the outset to prevent CLT land/properties from being sold off by members for profit in future?
• How are ground rents most effectively managed and deployed? What happens in the case of default of rent payments from a leaseholder?
• What structures should be put in place to ensure transparency/openness of Trust management?
• How can the potential ‘thanklessness’ of a role on CLT management/board be addressed?
• Can the Scottish ‘Community Right to Buy’ Act be implemented in Ireland? What is the current status of attempts to do this?
• How long is a typical CLT lease? What happens at expiration?
• Are there Irish precedents which would be relevant to CLT formation?
HOW TO FORM A COHOUSING GROUP
• Should an exclusive (in terms of membership) development be given public funding? If so, why, or in what context?
• What should a group establish internally before they reach out to an external audience for support/advice/funding?
• What key information resources are available to groups starting out?
• Where/how to find initial members, those who share your values? How can core values bestbe established?
• What communication tools are available to groups, and how can time spent developing/organising these be managed most efficiently?
• How can new Irish groups best learn from existing ones?
• What governance models are available to groups and what are their relative advantages/disadvantages?
• How can a group steer away from becoming just a talking shop? Are financial contributions or other commitments required/advised early on?
• What methods can groups use to develop their communication/decision-making skills?
• What decision-making processes can be employed by a group and what are their relative advantages/disadvantages?
• What selection criteria can be used to invite/include new members?
• What are the advantages/disadvantages to diversity amongst group members? (in terms of age, skills, income etc.?)
• What conflict resolution mechanisms can be employed?
• What methods can be used to build trust and balance power amongst a group?
• What amount/regularity of meetings are required of members? What is realistically sustainable in this regard?
• What is the optimum range in group size, in terms of critical density, workability, efficiency, scale of ambition etc.?
• What methods can be employed to ensure that specialist and articulate voices do not extinguish other types of quieter voices in the group which are vital to its success?
• Timeline/Roadmap – How long will the full process take? And the individual steps? What elements are in the group’s control and what elements are determined by external factors?
• How can the in-full-control elements best be managed to reduce timeline and maintain energy in the group to tackle external challenges? What activities/tasks can be done in parallel/simultaneously?
• How can design ambitions be balanced in a case of varying level of financial status among a group?
HARNESSING GROUP SKILLS
• How can members initial enthusiasm best be cultivated and sustained as a valuable resource?
• What key roles are required of members in a group?
• What skills are useful/required of group members, and how can the availability of these skills be assessed, sought or discovered? Likewise for group assets.
• In considering whether to retrofit an existing building or build a new one, what are the likely relative advantages/disadvantages of these options?
• How can a group effectively determine the size of land which they require? Can baseline estimates be established based on a m2/pp basis? (This in the case where a group does not already have land available to them from outset.)
• At what stage is the introduction of a qualified facilitator required/recommended?
• Is there a need for a national cohousing organisation to facilitate inclusivity and access to this model of housing? Are there other/better ways to achieve this aim?
• To what extent can/should/need a cohousing group cultivate support among their local councillors or local authority with a view to accessing land or technical support? Likewise, to what extent must they educate local authorities about cohousing in the current environment of an unfamiliar model?
• What can rural Irish cohousing groups learn from Cloughjordan EcoVillage or elsewhere, in terms of achieving minimum critical mass of membership and access to services? How can members be attracted from outside area if required, and how can advantages of this best be framed for local authorities? Are there any national/local supports available to rural groups?
• Generational rent, what happens at retirement? Are you reliant on your pension to pay rent?
• How can collateral be released in the case of a co-op member who already owns a house? Can a house be given to the cooperative as an asset?
• What are the various legal/ownership models employed by cohousing groups abroad?
• Can MHOS work currently in Ireland? What are the legal barriers, if any?
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of various legal models for cohousing groups?
• What are the advantages/disadvantages of forming a cooperative?
• It has been suggested that in Ireland, ownership needs to be attached to a physical asset, but that elsewhere in EU, ownership can to be attached to a concept. Is this true? Is this a legal requirement in Ireland? What kind of concept/criteria satisfy obligations abroad?
• Is it possible to pool mortgages in a CLG format? What exactly does pooling mortgages entail? In the case of a CLT or cohousing, what does the bank own? (Until all debts paid off.) What insures them in case of default by one or all members?
• What are the advantages/disadvantages of initiating a cohousing project by splitting up an existing building (ie. large house)? What ownership/management options exist in this scenario?
• In the case of long-term rent from a cooperative, how is this sustained into retirement?
• What are the implications of the Ground Rent Act for a CLT in Ireland?
• What are the arguments for participative design?
• What elements are residents willing to share, and what tools are available to aid them in this decision-making process?
• How can expectations be managed/clarified from the outset in a participative design process?
• How can balance between wants/needs/concerns be targeted from outset?
• What level of choice should residents typically be allowed in design process? How to make clear from outset where residents will have choice and why? What is appropriate for different types/sizes of groups?
• How do you set/enforce cut-off points for key decisions to be made and carried through?
DECISION MAKING TOOLS
• What participatory techniques/tools are available/developed?
• How can long-term management/maintenance structures be incorporated as a factor into participative design processes? At what stage should they be introduced?
• Are universal design principles necessary and/or sufficient to ensure a project is truly multigenerational?
• What is a reasonable time commitment to expect of members in a typical cohousing group throughout a participative design process?
• What compromises are necessary for individuals involved in participative design, and how can these be successfully balanced against collective gain?
• Are there specific spaces which might benefit particularly from participative design process? (ie. common garden, roof terrace, guest apt/bedroom, shared kitchen, façade materials, adaptability/structure?) Are there elements where participative design is a waste of time?
• How to manage members leaving the process? At what point is concrete commitment
• How can you excite people about the participative design process and its benefits, particularly those who do not have a creative background?
• What additional skills would Irish architects require, if any, to act in a similar facilitation+design role as, say, German cohousing architects? Are there relevant qualifications in Germany?
WORKING WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND COUNCILS
• How can a database of empty available land be sourced through local authorities? Have Dublin City Council or other LAs a clear list of potential sites?
• How to approach Local Authorities about a Cohousing project?
• What should a group have ready/agreed before attempting to arrange a meeting with their Local Authority, what stage should they be at?
• Who exactly is ultimately responsible for allocating sites, or providing support funding, to a community group? Who is the first point of contact?
• How can SOA or others break down the process for groups in approaching their Local Authority for support with their project?
LOCAL AUTHORITY CAPABILITIES
• Does State owned land have to be competively tendered? Even if so, can it be specifically earmarked for cohousing? If so, under what mechanism/obligations/criteria?
• To what extent are Local Authorities regulated by EU in allocating land/sites/funding?
• To what extent are Local Authorities regulated by national government in allocating land/sites?
• What exactly is the role of councillors in deciding on land use in a local area? What would encourage them to vote for cohousing project? What are key motivations?
• How to manage the fact that local councils/councillors change every few years, resulting in a lack of continuity in decision making? What exactly is the remit of councillors?
• Are there particular differences between urban (ie. Dublin) and rural local authorities, in terms of resources/finances/motivations? If so does this present opportunities for cohousing groups in certain areas?
• To what extent are Local Authorities guided/instructed by the Department of Environment?
• What should groups be asking Local Authorities for (ie. Site/Insurance/Expertise?)
• Are there Local Authority grants available for any aspect of a cohousing group’s work?
• How can councillors/local authorities best be educated about cohousing/CLTs?
• Is it important for cohousing to be featured in development plans in order to gain attention/understanding of councillors/civil servants?
• Are there graphic/infographic/other tools which can successfully break down the benefits of cohousing for councils?
• Do Local Authorities have sites which they are struggling to develop? Can mutual benefit be found here between a community group and a Local Authority?
• Is Local Authority support particularly important in urban areas? (Due to competiton for land).
• In the case where a group has secured a site, to what extent can neighbourhood support be utilised to strengthen a planning application?
• To what extent can a group ‘prove themselves’ to a Local Authority’ at small scale, before asking for more large-scale help?
• What elements of a build can be omitted in the short-term to reduce costs, and added later?
• We can’t necessarily have everything we want individually in a cohousing project. Where are the potential compromises which can be identified at start of a project?
• Is there an EU Directive saying that lowering VAT rates for particular types of housing can’t be done?
• Repayments to a cooperative in Ireland at present are very expensive to balance cost of build. How can land/build costs be reduced?
MAKING A PLACE TO LIVE
• How can a cohousing project address issues of adaptability for growing/contracting households? (With a view to allowing people to live sustainably/efficiently in their own community for life, if they wish?)
• What advantages can cohousing offer rural communities in terms of place to meet/socialise?
• What advantages can cohousing offer rural communities in terms of creating employment
• What advantages can cohousing offer rural/urban communities in terms of creating amenities/shops locally?
• What advantages can cohousing offer rural communities in terms of creating workspaces locally and reducing commute times?
• What potentials for intergenerational interaction exist in cohousing/land trusts?
• Does cohousing improve/enhance volunteerism among communities? is there any data on this, and associated benefits to society?