Frequently Asked Questions
Cohousing as a Concept
What is cohousing?
Cohousing is a type of intentional neighborhood in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of the community. The physical design encourages social contact while preserving privacy.
Households have independent incomes and private lives, but residents collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces. Community activities typically feature regularly scheduled shared meals, meetings, and workdays. Residents also gather for parties, games, movies, or other events. Cohousing makes it easy to form clubs, organize child and elder care, and carpool.
Cohousing facilitates interaction among neighbors and thereby provides social, practical, economic, and environmental benefits.
Is cohousing growing in our area of North Carolina?
Yes, and across the country too. According to the Cohousing Association of the United States, "Around the world when people learn about cohousing, they begin to envision a better life leading to a movement that includes more than 165 communities occupied in the US and about 140 in formation."
Durham is a veritable epicenter for cohousing with at least 10 cohousing groups in the area. One of our founding members, Jim, was featured in a 2018 article about Durham as a national leader in the cohousing movement.
How can I learn more about the cohousing concept?
- Watch: Cohousing: The Future of Community and Human Connection | Trish Becker-Hafnor | TEDxCherryCreekWomen
Read: The Case For Cohousing: Where Responsibilities Are Shared And Life Is A Little Less Lonely | Cognoscenti
Read: about the What and Why of cohousing from the Cohousing Association of the United States
BCC's Vision of Cohousing
Who will live at Bull City Commons?
We are 23 member households – singles and couples (and a family), working and retired, volunteers and activists. Our lives are full and rich! Some of us have lived and traveled around the world; some of us enjoy the quiet of home. We have come together around the pursuit of kindness, respect, and support for individual and community wellbeing. We all value community, share our diverse skills and interests, and offer mutual support to each other. The people of Bull City Commons represent a wide range of faiths and beliefs. We value diversity and look forward to expanding and enriching our world as we learn from one another.
How will the project be developed?
We are a self-developing community using a Limited Liability Company (LLC) legal structure, of which all of our members are owners. Under this structure, we were able to avoid hiring a private developer, and therefore we saved on development fees that would add substantially to the cost of the development. Instead, we hired our own experts, including:
Christine Westfall, an experienced project manager who helped develop the Durham Central Park Cohousing Community in Durham, to serve as our project manager to handle day-to-day development activities
Weinstein Friedlein Architects as our architects
Emerson Land Planning, PLLC, to provide site planning and landscape architecture services
Grounded Engineering for engineering design and consulting services
RESOLUTE Building Company as our general contractor
We are financing the construction project through a combination of our members' equity investments and a construction loan from Pinnacle Bank. Read more about our development process and Development Oversight Circle.
How were the home prices determined?
We are pricing our units "at cost" with the base sales price determined by multiplying the number of square feet in the condo unit by our cost per square foot plus certain price adjustments such as the cost of owner selected upgrades. Our sales prices are calculated to fully cover our development costs. However, because we are self-developing the building and financing construction through a combination of our own equity contributions and a bank construction loan, we can avoid developer fees and profit that would normally be built into sales prices for new condos to compensate a developer and investors. As a result, our sales prices on a per square foot basis are somewhat below many other new condos in the downtown Durham market. Final pricing will depend on final costs and selected upgrades.
How does Bull City Commons self-govern?
Because cohousing is an intentional community, all residents participate in shared decision-making about how we want to live together. We use a form of dynamic governance called Sociocracy, which provides an effective structure for our business meetings and interactions. Meetings and committees (called circles) are run efficiently with a facilitator, all voices are heard, and decisions are made by consent of members.
When can I move in?
In the Fall of 2021, based on our current construction schedule. We started construction in August 2020. As with any construction project, the date is subject to change depending on unforeseen circumstances. See our construction photo gallery.
Do residences have their own kitchens?
Yes. Each unit includes a kitchen. See Condo Designs.
What steps are you taking to improve sound insulation?
Effective acoustic insulation inside the building is a top priority for our community. To dampen sound within each unit and between floors, we will have:
A subfloor combination of 1½” of gypcrete and an acoustic mat (standard gypcrete installation is usually only 1” thick)
Individual unit flooring products glued down to an additional acoustic mat, as needed, and floated on the subfloor
Double-framed demising walls that will create an air space separating each unit
Interior unit bathroom walls filled with fiberglass batt insulation
Insulated common area hallway walls with “staggered studs” to dampen sound transmission between halls and units
How “green” is Bull City Commons?
We have made "green" design choices to the extent they were financially viable. For example, our architect planned natural light where possible. We have included electrical wiring for future electric car charging stations and future solar panels on the building roof. Our choice of location in central Durham provides walkable access to parks, trails, groceries, restaurants, and more. Downtown Durham is accessible by bike, bus, or Uber/Lyft to reduce our reliance on cars.
Will there be an exercise room?
No, we don’t plan to have a dedicated exercise room. We anticipate some of our multipurpose rooms could be used for things like yoga. We will eventually determine what furniture, furnishings, and equipment the community wants to include in the common areas, but that work hasn’t yet begun and will start sometime in 2021.
What is shared in the community?
We will have shared common areas including a common kitchen and laundry (see Building Design for a more complete list). We also anticipate that certain items will be stored centrally for sharing so that each resident doesn't need to own and store all of these items. Examples include gardening and other tools, books, puzzles, and games. Additionally, residents will likely be willing to lend an item, such as a beach chair or springform pan when you need one and don't want to buy one.
Will there be any shared meals?
Yes. We anticipate having a community meal at least monthly if not weekly (we haven't yet determined the frequency and specifics).
Must I be extroverted and sociable?
No. Every member can be as public or private as they wish.
What if I don’t like every resident?
In a group of 23 households, there will naturally be some people you get along with better than others. We've discovered that working together in circles allows us to appreciate the unique strengths of other members as we pursue common goals. You may grow to like people whom you had earlier judged poorly.
How many parking spaces come with my unit?
One. 18 spaces are under the parking podium and 3 are uncovered on our property. Please see our full parking policy.
Can I have pets?
Yes. Pets will be allowed, with some restrictions. Please see our full pets policy.
Will I be able to rent out my unit?
Yes. We permit long-term rentals, but not short-term AirBNB type rentals. However, we are an owner/member community that relies on participation, and we do restrict rentals. Please see our full rental policy.
What level of participation is expected of me?
Each member is automatically a member of the Plenary Circle, and is expected to participate in at least one other circle, which is where most of the work gets done. Most of these circles meet monthly. All members share responsibility for the management and care of the community; therefore, once we move into the building, residents are expected to help with building and grounds maintenance tasks and to participate in periodic workdays. See our member participation guidelines.
Is this a retirement community or an assisted living facility?
BCC is a group of households whose members actively participate in the life of the community. Some members have full-time or part-time careers and others are retired. Each condo unit is independently owned, and there is no formal health care assistance provided to members. Members’ ages range from 40s through 70s. Read more about who we are.
Although we are a community group where friends and neighbors help each other in informal ways when life challenges occur, we are not an assisted living community; members must be responsible for their own health care and personal care needs.
Is smoking permitted in the building?
No. We have a No Smoking policy for the entire building and grounds.
Are guns permitted?
No. We have a No Firearms policy for the entire building and grounds.
Are there restrictions on the ability to sell a condo or will it to a member's heirs?
Once the building is complete and residents own their units, they can sell their condo on the open market or transfer ownership to their designated heirs, subject to the condo association bylaws, convenants and policies. This is similar to how ownership of a conventional condo would transfer.
How can I determine whether BCC would be a good fit for me?
Prospective members have several opportunities to get to know current members and vice versa. First, come to an information session to learn more and get your questions answered. Second, attend our monthly Plenary business meeting and experience first-hand how we operate, make decisons, and interact with each other. These steps are required for all prospective members and designed to help with your decision-making. You are welcome to attend any of our BCC social events too.
Why join the waitlist?
If a member withdraws before move-in, those on the waitlist will be contacted in the order they joined the waitlist. Each applicant will have a limited number of days to claim the available condo. During that time, if you decide to purchase the available condo, we will then guide you through completing the remaining steps. Waitlist members receive our monthly newsletter and invitations to all events, both of which give you a chance to get to know us better.