If I want to move into a cohousing project designed for seniors in California this year or next, what do I need to do?

Become a member of Wolf Creek Lodge! Although there are several existing cohousing projects in California and some others are just getting started, Wolf Creek Lodge is the only senior cohousing project in California that is available to move into within that time frame. It takes a minimum of three years to plan, design, and construct a typical project from the time that the land is acquired.

How many cohousing projects designed for seniors exist in California, and how many are being planned?

In addition to Wolf Creek Lodge, there is one completed project in Davis (Glacier Circle, an 8 home community) and one in Mountain View that is oriented toward the Baby Boomer demographic. They have 19 homes having opened in January 2015. Phoenix Commons in Oakland is a coop, “inspired by cohousing”. Others are in the preliminary forming stages.

How many senior cohousing projects exist in other states, and how many are being planned?

There is one completed project in Boulder, CO (Silver Sage with 16 homes). There is also a completed project in Abingdon, VA (Elderspirit Community with 29 homes). There are two new communities being developed, one in Boulder, CO (Washington Village with 33 homes) and one in Stillwater, OK (Stillwater Senior Cohousing that currently has 18 households). All of these will take three or more years to develop.

The cost per square foot of the unit I am interested in at Wolf Creek Lodge is considerably more than the cost per square foot of my current home. Why is that?

The unit price includes the cost of the 4,000 square foot (sf) common house and other amenities. For a better comparison, try dividing the cost of your unit of choice by the sum of the area of the unit plus 133 sf for the per-unit share of the common house. For example, for a 1029 sf unit, the cost per sf would be approximately $362 ($372,400/1029sf). If you factor in your share of the common house, however, the cost/sf would be approximately $320.

As a member of Wolf Creek Lodge you also have an undivided interest (you have full shared use) in the 3.5 acres of open space along Wolf Creek.

Also, consider that your utility costs at Wolf Creek Lodge are likely to be only a fraction of what you are currently paying because of the benefits of “green design.” The project has been designed to significantly reduce heat transfer between the dwelling and the outside environment, which is why the units will not be air conditioned.

What if I am equivocal about living in a  community?

First take the opportunity to visit the members of this community  at one of the open houses or at a social event.  We often invite those who have demonstrated a serious interest in our community to stay overnight in one of the guest rooms.

What about landscaping and gardens?

Extensive landscaping includes both decorative and edible trees, shrubs, vegetables and plants.  There is plenty of opportunity for members to add to these and to create new spaces for vegetable, fruits and flowers.

What are the monthly assessments and what do they cover?

Upon purchase of your home, all residents in the project are members of a home owners association (HOA). Wolf Creek Lodge members pay monthly assessments to the HOA to cover a variety of community expenses.  At this time, we have initial estimates generated by a professional consultant who specializes in HOA Budgets.  These have been reviewed, modified and approved by the California Department of Real Estate. As we gain experience of our actual costs, the HOA board (which consists of all members) can make adjustments to the assessments to reflect reality. Ultimately, the community itself controls the HOA budget.

The HOA fee for each home ranges from $324 to $390 per month (2014 budget), depending on the size of the home. Add $17 per month if you plan to purchase a covered parking space.  Some of the items covered by HOA fees include:

  • Property and liability insurance for buildings. This doesn’t cover personal property and liability, but owners generally only need “contents” or condo insurance for their personal property
  • Home heating from radiant floor heating system and hot water from a shared boiler.
  • Community internet infrastructure that allows for fast wired and Wi-Fi internet access.
  • All ongoing operating costs associated with common areas including the common house, laundry, guest rooms and bathrooms, kitchen, furnishings, patio, common utilities, exterior lights, and some exterior landscaping.
  • Maintenance of the road and the 3.5 acres of permanent open space along the creek.
  • Operating costs of the spa
  • Solar hot water system
  • City water and sewer fees
  • Garbage and recycling pick up
  • Fire sprinkler and alarm system
  • Elevator maintenance
  • Pest control
  • Reserves for building and property maintenance and replacement including exterior paint, roof, and all building wide systems such as heating and hot water
  • Homeowners Association administration expenses

Financing questions. How was construction funded?  Can I get a mortgage?

Construction was funded by a bank loan, member deposits and some individual investors. These loans have been paid back from the proceeds of home sales. Now that the majority of homes have been sold conventional financing is available.  Our last buyer obtained a reverse mortgage for purchase. The previous buyer used a conventional 30 year fixed rate loan. We can refer you to the mortgage brokers who arranged these buyers’ mortgages. They  have given detailed briefings to the lenders about our project.

Can I bring my pets?

Yes, but you are limited to two dogs or cats unless you make special arrangements. Members are allowed to have pets, but at the same time they are encouraged to respect community members who might be adversely affected by the presence or behavior of their pets. This means that pet owners are responsible for controlling the number, kind, and behavior of their pets. It also means that members will respect those who choose to have pets and the importance of those pets in their lives.

What about the noise issue?

Our architects did an excellent job planning for a high degree of noise abatement. The walls between units are double walls with a 1” space between which is filled with insulation. The floor/ceiling structure is much more complicated but very effective at reducing noise.  Because it is almost impossible to completely prevent all impact noise from one unit to the unit below, we strongly encourage owners of units with floor space above bedrooms on the next lower level to keep the originally installed pad and carpet or replace with other pad and carpet rather than hard flooring surfaces to further minimize this type of noise in bedrooms.

Is everything air-conditioned?  How is the heating handled?

The only part of the building that is air conditioned is the common house. Many individual homes have air conditioners. The building is well insulated so the cold air of a Grass valley night is retained during most days. Each unit has one or more (up to three) connections for installing ceiling fans as part of the original construction.  Each owner buys and installs the actual fans.

Heating is done by radiant heating using water in our floors. Each unit has individual thermostatic controls so you may choose whatever temperature is comfortable for you.

How will we handle conflicts?

We have a Conflict Resolution Agreement using our consensus process.

How often are many common meals available?  How often do I have to cook?

A team developed a common meals plan that was adopted by the community.  We  share common meals several times a week, usually dinners but sometimes a brunch or a BBQ lunch. The time and menu is “cook’s choice”, but the menu is published online in advance and members  sign up for a meal. Teams of two to four people prepare each meal. A central feature of creating community in cohousing is “breaking bread” together.   Each adult is involved in meal planning, preparation and cleanup once every month. Common meals are priced at cost. The cooks often provide a vegetarian option, and special food requirements are respected, although not every one of them is necessarily be accommodated at every meal.

Is there space to put up guests?

Yes, we have two guest rooms that are available for your guests.  In addition,  one unit is available for a care giver if one or more of our members find they need a care giver on site for a period of time. Currently this is used as an additional guest room.

Can we rent our homes?

Yes, we have established a rental policy. Please contact us for details

Do we have to serve on committees?

We call them teams. We are an active adult community committed to our own and each other’s continuing growth and full enjoyment of our common living space.

We agree that we must all participate in accomplishing the work of the community and accept that on occasion, for the greater good of the community, we may be called upon to do a job not of our preference.

As we will be “aging in place” together, we realize that we may become unable to do certain tasks and/or may become limited in our capacity to participate as fully as we would like.

We desire that every member experience his/her participation as a contribution to the community in a meaningful way.

Therefore, our intention is to accomplish the work of the Wolf Creek Lodge Community cheerfully and in good fellowship, while taking care of ourselves and supporting each other with compassion and understanding.

How much storage do we have?

There is limited storage in each home. Homes on the top floor will have a small storage space in the attic (enough for Christmas decorations, for example) and there is limited storage in the garages in the rafters.

Garages are intended primarily for the parking of vehicles, not storage. If you have greater need for storage, there are rental storage facilities nearby.  Members might choose to share a rental storage space.

What is the provision for when a member gets sick?

We have a “Health Care Position Statement.”  It includes the statement “Because we are not an assisted living community, members must be able to live independently and/or be responsible for their own health and personal care needs, as required.” In other cohousing communities members assist one another to overcome limitations due to temporary health issues.

What is shared in common?

Common facilities are designed for daily use. They are an integral part of the community, and are supplemental to the private residences. The common house includes a dining area with a high end kitchen, sitting area with some space for shared books, laundry and  a multi-purpose room. There are two guest rooms. A gas fired fireplace serves both the dining room and the sitting room.  Our site also has an outdoor patio with a spa and gardens. We also have over three acres of undeveloped shared open space accessed by a trail down to Wolf Creek. There are also steps (about 180) with a handrail down to Wolf Creek.

Is there an age limit?  Can my adult daughter live with me for six months?

Wolf Creek Lodge is not an age restricted community, but is designed as an active adult community.  Neither the homes nor the common facility has facilities designed for children or teenagers. You may choose to have any adult live with you as long as you can house them. After all, it is your home.

Smoking policy?

We have an agreement that we do not permit smoking.

Is there flexibility for members to travel for long periods, i.e. part-time residency?

The practical answer to this is yes. Many of us travel frequently. Your home will be surrounded by your neighbors so there should be no security issues. You are responsible for satisfying our group participation policy, however.  That could mean doing more work when you are at home and letting others take a break or contributing funds to hire someone to do some work.

Will I be able to sell a home and to whom?

It’s your home and you may sell it to whomever you choose.  Any new owner would take ownership subject to complying with the CC&R’s and group agreements.  In other words, the new owner must become a member of the HOA and abide by the HOA’s rules and regulations.

What are the parking arrangements for residents and guests?

There is enough parking for one vehicle per unit. The parking consists of garages, underground parking, and outside parking. There is a limited amount of parking for guests. Parking choices are determined on a seniority basis.

How is maintenance handled, outside, in common areas, in homes?

All owners maintain or arrange for the maintenance of the interior of their home.  The group will decide over time how much of the common area maintenance we want to do ourselves and how much we want to pay to have someone else do it.  For example, we will hire someone to paint the exterior of the building and other major work.  We share the more regular tasks required to maintain the inside and outside of our common house and exterior common areas,  on a rotating basis or some other equitable process.

How are units passed on to children?  Estate planning?

Just as you can sell your home to anyone, you can also pass ownership through estate planning just as you would a single family home.

Any kid policy?

Our project is not age restricted.  However, this is an active adult community.  Of course, members enjoy occasional visits from grandchildren both their own and those of other members.

Is there a pool?

There is a hot tub or spa as part of our common area. There are swimming facilities available in the area.

What are the rights and responsibility for common area, including open space, and access to creek?

The community decides how to maintain and care for the Lodge common area.  The open space is subject to a maintenance agreement with the owners of the adjoining property and the eight single family home sites.  The Lodge HOA is the administrator of that agreement and will collect assessments from all owners of the overall site.  The HOA, along with the other overall site owners, decides how much of the maintenance we want to do ourselves and how much we want done by hired workers.

We have granted an easement for a trail to the local land trust which will construct and maintain a trail from the southern end of the site along Freeman Lane down to and along the creek.  A bridge across the creek is planned that will give access to a trail on the other side leading into downtown Grass Valley or out into undeveloped areas to the south.

Are floor plans fixed?

Yes, the floor plans are fixed. You have freedom to do what you want after you purchase your home subject to the CC&R’s, HOA agreements and the building code of Grass Valley.

What is the level of social commitment, including holidays?  What are the expectations of participation?

The community decides this, although this kind of participation will be voluntary.  Some of us are looking forward to celebrating the winter solstice by sharing mulled cider on the patio, for example.

How green are we? What about Recycling?  Solar?

The architects have designed our project with green in mind. They have used the best insulation practices with passive solar heating and cooling considerations being paramount. Solar thermal panels on the roof of the west wing  heat the water before final heating in our common boilers.  This water provides both domestic hot water and, through a heat exchanger, heats the water that circulates under our floors to provide the radiant heat.

In 2017 we installed panels on the east wing for a 24kW solar photovoltaic system. This significantly reduces the cost of electricity used in the common areas. The system was a gift from the estate of a former resident.

We have areas for composting and temporary storage of recyclable waste.

How do you conduct the business of the community? How do the various jobs get assigned? How are decisions be made?

We modeled our management structure after the many successful cohousing groups who have gone before us, by establishing teams to handle the various elements of conducting the community’s business (i.e., our “Team Roles and Responsibilities” document). Our “Participation Agreement” speaks to how we accomplish the work of the community while taking into account each member’s interests, abilities and limitations.

Likewise, we have chosen to follow the cohousing model of making decisions by consensus, where every member has a voice and ample time and energy is given until everyone feels heard and a satisfactory decision, one that serves the best welfare of the community as a whole, is reached. Under certain circumstances, if/when unable to come to an agreement by consensus, our Decision Making process does allow for a method of voting in order to reach a decision. We’ve also created a process whereby the community can revisit and change any past decisions made that are found to be “unworkable.”

If you’d like to see any or all of the consented documents addressing the above questions, please let us know and we will be happy to send them to you.

Are any of the homes set up for apartment-sized washer/dryer?

We have a laundry facility in the common area that has washers and dryers for member’s use. Some homes are plumbed for a washer and a dryer.

Is there high speed internet, Wi-Fi, cable TV, other electronic hookups?

We have shared high speed internet, both wired andWi-Fi.  TV, phone and data are prewired into each home. Cable and satellite TV are both available. You may contract for any service you wish but are not required to use any.

Is the project wheelchair accessible?

Absolutely. There is an elevator to each floor and each unit is one story.

Is each home gas or electric?

Appliances in the units must be electric due to venting considerations. Gas is used in the common area for the kitchen range, fireplace and dryers in the laundry.

Is there dancing?

That is entirely up to the members. Some members go line dancing  nearby in the outside community and have been seen together practising in the common room.   Our active adults also participate in petanque, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, skiing, snow shoeing, kayaking, and the list goes on.