who we are
where we live
how we work
Frequently Asked Questions
Members have access to the oral history of the community as well as to documents that describe the detailed ins-and-outs of living here. Answers to some of the more general questions are below.
What is cohousing?
As defined on cohousing.org, “Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods. Residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.” You can read more here.
How long has your community been around?
Do many long-time families and individuals live there?
The first residents officially moved in to Puget Ridge cohousing in 1994. Interested families and individuals had been meeting for years before that to establish community values, find a site, and design the community. We have twenty-three units and close to half of those households have lived here since the move-in date.
How does the decision-making process work?
We use consensus to make decisions in our community. This means that when making a decision, the community works together to reach a solution that is the best for the community and that all can agree on. However, not every decision is up for consensus — many committees hold decision-making power for certain things. On average, over the last ten years, we’ve had about four to seven decisions per year up for consensus (including the budget, which goes through consensus every year). The strongest consensus decisions are made with full participation from all community members in identifying concerns, questions, and possible alternative solutions. The process generally consists of the following:
• An individual or committee identifies an idea, issue or project that needs community attention.
• There is an initial discussion at a community meeting, to identify questions, concerns,
and feelings; to identify next steps, get additional input, research, etc.; and to determine if
a consensus process is needed.
• If we determine that the consensus process would be best for the issue, a proposal
(which addresses questions and concerns) is distributed to households seven days in
advance of a community meeting.
• The consensus process is begun at the next meeting. This gives members at least two ooooopportunities to discuss issues before decisions are made.
The consensus process is designed to encourage all community members to raise their questions, suggestions, and concerns about proposals; and for the committee or person shepherding the proposal to listen, respond, and revise as seems appropriate. Consensus is meant to engage us all in a process of listening to one another so that decisions are arrived at in fairness and with thoroughness.
What are community meetings like?
Our general meetings are a time when community members regularly come together to share and make decisions. We share our joys and concerns, information that affects our lives, discussions of ideas, issues and projects, and we make decisions about how we live together and manage our community funds and expenses. We meet once a month, on a Saturday or Sunday morning for three hours. A typical agenda consists of Joys and Concerns, Announcements, Information and/or discussion topics, Consensus Proposals (if there are any), and Meeting Reflections. Agenda items are submitted by individuals and committees to the Community Life Committee, which does any necessary follow-up and publishes the agenda one to three days before a meeting.
At our meetings, we strive to be attentive to and respectful of all members; to be present mentally and emotionally; to speak thoughtfully and authentically; to listen from the heart; to avoid personal characterizations; and to be succinct. As much as possible, we try to educate ourselves, be alert, and to make positive contributions in meetings, yet we recognize that any meeting is a work in progress, and that we are all human. We have a mutual commitment to do our best, and to be compassionate with ourselves and with one another.
How much time/work is required of members?
Each adult living on-site is expected to:
• attend general meetings and participate in the consensus process
• participate in a committee
• attend work parties
• sign up for work chores
• sign up for meal shifts (if they participate in the meals program)
To give you an idea of time commitment, we have twelve to fourteen general meeting per year, and each meeting lasts three hours. Committee work varies per time of year and type of committee. There are four full-day and two half-day work parties, for a total of twenty-four hours per year — with each adult entitled to one free pass per year. Chores are twelve hours a year.
Because our community functions more smoothly (and feels better) when we are connected and involved, everyone here sees the value in contributing. In general, there is flexibility and support to help each member meet the requirements, and members take personal responsibility for what they can and cannot complete. You can read more here.
Do you eat meals together? How does that work?
The meals program is optional. While no one is required to attend community meals, most residents would agree that the informal visiting that happens during meals is the best part of cohousing, and helps keep folks connected. Meals are cooked in the common house two nights a week. A menu is created at the beginning of the month, and residents sign up to shop, cook, or clean. This works out to about two chores a month, in exchange for eight meals. Everyone does their best to contribute, with the understanding that it is our work that makes the meals possible. Meals tend to be well-balanced with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
Do you pay dues?
As a condominium, each household pays monthly assessments, which are calculated based on the community's operating and replacement reserves budgets and take into account the size of one’s unit. The assessments pay for maintenance and repair of building exteriors, the common house interior, and grounds and landscaping (not including private yards); water, sewer, and garbage for entire community; heat, electricity, and telephone for the common house; condominium association insurance; and other PRCA expenses.
Do you own your own homes?
Each home is owned individually. We sometimes have one or two units that are being rented while owners are temporarily living off-site. Each home has all its own amenities, including kitchen, bathroom(s), bedrooms, washer and dryer hookups, etc., as well as porch(es) or small areas that would be considered one’s yard. You can learn more about our site here.
What rights and responsibilities do renters have?
Renters have the same rights and responsibilities as owners with the exception of participating in decision-making in certain areas (for example, the annual budget). Renters are seen as and encouraged to be an active and integral part of the community.
What is your common house like?
The common house is 4,000 square feet. The upstairs has a commercial (yet cozy) kitchen, a living room, a dining room, a bathroom, mail area, and bulletin boards. The downstairs has a pool table, kids’ play area, laundry facilities, bathroom, guest room, and shop. Our common house is truly a comfortable, beautiful, and enriching aspect of our community. It sits centrally on our property and brings people together.
What equipment is shared?
We have a fully-stocked shop and basement with landscape and lawn tools. We have carts that are shared and used by everyone. As relationships deepen, many people also share their privately owned items, such as bikes, kayaks, sleeping bags, coolers, a cup of sugar...
Are there many families there? What’s it like to raise kids there?
Out of twenty-three homes, there are eight households with children ages eighteen and younger. Raising kids here can be an incredibly rich and challenging experience, but it is one that many parents and kids are deeply grateful for. Parents of children who have already “left the nest” often comment on how well-rounded and comfortable with adults their children are. Older children share how special it is to have so many friends and loved ones in their lives, and to see the adults in their lives working together; the younger children especially love having so many playmates; and parents appreciate having support so close at hand, such as other parents, babysitters, and elders.
Are there many elders in your community? What’s it like to grow older there?
About a third of current households include people in their 60s and 70s. These members contribute a wealth of experience about living in community and life in general, and are now initiating the discussion about how to age here with thoughtfulness and ease.
Elders who live in single family homes may find it difficult to maintain full responsibility for their own building and grounds. Those who live in senior facilities turn over this responsibility to staff and thereby also reduce their independence and participation in the decisions that affect them. Cohousing offers a middle ground in which responsibilities and decision making are shared equally and shouldered together across several generations.
In addition, our community offers many opportunities for continuing to lead active and engaged lives, such as getting together to garden, maintain the grounds, exercise, cook and dine, socialize, and enjoy hobbies. Social contact and activity among all community members is available daily, and one can choose to participate or not. Friendships grow based on common interests rather than common ages. During times of illness or loss, neighbors’ helping hands and kind hearts are readily available to provide support, do errands, deliver meals, attend medical appointments, and brighten a day with visits. Currently, Puget Ridge Cohousing is exploring ways to support members as we age, including design features such as lighting and porch railings and systems changes such as modified work expectations.
Are pets allowed?
Yes. Each household takes responsibility for their own pets, and for ensuring that their pet respects the shared spaces as much as possible, etc. We have dogs, cats, fish, birds…
What about diversity?
We seek to enrich our group by including people of diverse backgrounds, such as ethnicity, age, race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, economic status, and disability. Many people feel that one of the most enriching things about living in cohousing is the multi-generational relationships that develop, and the learning that happens when we come to understand and appreciate each other’s differing views and experiences.