Casa Nova visit

On saturday 4/02, a few of us visited casa nova.
Here are my notes, everybody feel free to add to it…

Size and set up
4 buildings, one of which is an old theater + library
14 units, 27 adults, 27 children (!)
Common rooms (170m2?): big communal kitchen, salle polyvalente, little multi purpose room, 200 m2 garden, soon to be roof top potager
An interesting thing: the small multi purpose room + small bathroom was used as a guest room, an office, and a consultation room for a psychologist. Each households gets to use it 5times a year for free, and has to pay for it beyond that.
For the salle polyvalente, each households gets to use the salle commune twice a year, and they use it for their meetings or meals, but the main use is for projects from the neighborhood
Legal structure
Copropiété + fondation . They also have the “Comité des habitants” which is the cohousing in itself
The copropriété is for the appartments, the garden and the parking (which includes people outside the community )
The fondation owns the salle polyvalente. All the households gave 15000euros to the fondation ; they will not technically get that back (but at the same time they consider that the salle polyvalente makes their appartment go up in value so they will, in a way, get it back). The board of the fondation is designated by the people of the cohousing
They chose the Fondation instead of the ASBL because it is too easy to change the ‘objet social’ (purpose) of an ASBL. So down the line, the GA could vote to change it and make the salle commune a fitness studio or to sell it. It was important for the founding members to know that the objet social will remain the same.

They’d been looking for a year and a half and were quite depressed. And they ended up finding a developer that was willing to sell them the site and the appartements to be built (but it was somebody they knew though, so not sure if that’s replicable…)
A few things that could be helpful though:

  • they mentioned that the developer was willing to sell because its project had been refused by the commune cause he wanted to pack in too many appartements… That point came out at another point of the conversation, so it could be a thing if we can have access to some kind of record with rejected projects…
  • look for places that developper don’t like, such as “interieur d’ilot”
  • they said that the meetings for “contrats de quartier” were probably an incredibly valuable thing for us, as the people there know the neighborhood extremely well.
  • they also advise to be flexible with the criteria we set
  • they also insisted that it is very important that the seller is interested in the project, so that he is willing to wait instead of just selling quickly to somebody else…

They wanted to create the “charte” once everybody was in. But they would now advise against that, as in the end, the risk is to have a very watered-down version, a result of the “plus petit commun dénominateur”, and not very ambitious.

Projects with the neighborhood
The salle polyvalente is available for free or a small price for projects for the neighbourhood; this is financed by the cohousing (every households pays 80euros a month to male it work)
Some of the projects they do : sewing classes, vege garden (their vege garden will be opened to the public) + cooking workshop, story telling, street library, photography exhibition, “café” meeting with social support available (advice on housing, etc…), neighbourhood party in the street twice a year.
They encourage to create direct link with the neighbourhood, present yourself, explain what you wanna do…

Other things

  • Conflict
    They authorised renting to one personn who was abroad one week out of two, and would only rent for min 2 or 3 nights. That went really well but somebody else rented for the weekend, and they ended up with party people, with a lot of nuisance.
    This ended up leading to tensions in the group in the long term. Even though the situation and the conflict got resolved , some people were left with the feeling of not being heard.
    They advise to resort to external “coach” to help deal with conflicts
  • TVA 21 vs 6%: one personn said that TVA at 6% is only available for buildings that have been empty less than a certain amount of time (?)
  • they have a board with pictures to see who’s doing what. it helps making the amount of work done by some people more visible.