Cohousing is an option that advocates living in an active community where you have a relationship with your neighbors before, during and after construction. Because the neighborhood and the homes are designed by the persons who live there, cohousing offers homeowners a social network that is already built into the neighborhood. This model works because those who live there continually develop social capital through shared activities that occur naturally as people work together and enjoy activities in the common house and common open spaces.
The common spaces are designed for daily use, are an integral part of the community, and are always supplemental to the privately-owned homes. Because cohousers have “right-sized” their homes for the space they actually use on a daily basis, the common house contains a dining room large enough for the entire community to share meals as desired, as well as activity rooms, a workshop, and sleeping rooms for any guests that come to visit. The cohousing community is managed by the people who live there, with no one person having authority over others. If the homeowners decide that some practices are not working, they work together to change them. Decisions are made by consensus rather than majority rule.
Eight households started Oakcreek in 2009 when they wanted to retire in Stillwater but couldn’t find a suitable housing alternative here. By 2010 they had researched the cohousing concept, found a site, and hired an architect and a development consultant who were experienced in creating cohousing communities. Gradually the group grew to twelve households who served as the developers, working with the architect to design the site plan, remodel the existing home to become the common house, and design private homes of four different sizes. Construction began in January 2012 and in October 2012 the first residents moved in. By December 2013, all of the homes were sold. This is the “short” story; the longer version is about the journey of people with vision, passion and the ability to work hard together. Ask us about it—we love to tell the rest of the story!
Oakcreek cohousing is an adult neighborhood. We are a group of women and men who share a common vision of aging-in-place with grace and dignity and who value living in community. Some of us are retired and some are still working. We include teachers, medical professionals, golfers, bicyclists, and more. Our members now range in age from early sixties to early nineties. Many people look forward to their retirement years and find themselves very busy using their skills with local non-profit organizations and pursuing interests they didn’t have time for when they were working and raising families. But in today’s world, we tend to depend on driving to get to most of our interests. Over time, our eyes don’t want to drive at night, and then suddenly a broken hip or twisted ankle keeps us at home. Overnight, an active adult can become an isolated senior. The members of Oakcreek have created a place where they have friends right next door. And many studies have shown that interdependence of “community” enables people to live independently longer, with healthier and more active social lives. Oakcreek Community was developed and built because a few people believed that they could create an environment which provided the freedom for people to live simply, cooperatively, and peacefully. So, the colorful, cottage-style homes are the face of the community; the homeowners are its heart.
Oakcreek Community is conveniently located in the heart of Stillwater, Oklahoma. It is near Oklahoma State University, downtown, Boomer Lake, shopping centers, and about a one hour drive from both Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The 7-acre site on which the community is built provides many opportunities to spend time outdoors – walking among the trees, playing games, sitting on rocks next to the creek, and chatting with neighbors along the connected sidewalks or on front porches. The walking is carefree thanks to garages and carports tucked neatly in a corner of the property. If you also enjoy spending time indoors, there is expanded living space beyond your own home in the “Common House.” It provides a gourmet kitchen in which to cook meals for the group, a peaceful dining room with a fireplace connecting it to a small sitting area, a large living/activity room, and a guest wing that includes 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The planning for the physical space included careful consideration of people’s interests and preferences.
The experts tell us that smart financial planning in anticipation of retirement means starting early. Much less often are we encouraged to plan early for the housing option that will make our retirement years most rewarding. It is never too early to begin exploring the option of cohousing in a community of 55+ active adults. In fact, the best time to consider any senior housing option is when one is healthy and able to make decisions independently. Those who have made the decision to “right-size” their lives, to make a real step toward successful aging-in-place, to increase their social capital by investing in a thriving neighborhood—in short, move to cohousing—have been amazed at the liberation. Bottom line: When should I consider cohousing? DON’T WAIT TOO LONG!
Oakcreek is owned by the people who live in the community. Each of our 24 households owns their own home as well as one twenty-fourth of all common property including the Common House. The legal structure is that of a condominium, governed by Declarations and By-laws of the Oakcreek Community Homeowners’ Association (HOA).
At Oakcreek, homeowners pay directly for their home’s electricity use, purchase condo insurance for the interiors of their homes, and are responsible for the property taxes for their homes. Most other utilities are paid indirectly through HOA dues, currently set at $297 per month per household. Items obtained through the HOA include insurance and maintenance for the common areas and exteriors of private homes, all water usage, and all trash pickup. The HOA also contracts for bulk Internet, cable TV and landline phone service for all homes and the common house. Use of geothermal heating and cooling keeps utility costs low. Natural gas isn’t used in the private homes, and is used in the common house only for cooking and a fireplace that gets used occasionally.
We anticipate that each owner will participate in the upkeep and maintenance of the common property. There are a variety of ways that you might contribute to weekly and/or monthly tasks. In addition to tasks you might carry out on your own, we schedule one community-wide work day per month and various inside and outside tasks, depending on the community’s needs, are tackled. It is amazing how much more fun raking or sweeping, building or cleaning can be when everyone works together. Spectators and snacks are also important contributions to a fun and productive work day. The way you participate is, of course, widely variable and based on your own unique capabilities. Our participation in the complete operation and maintenance of our community guarantees that we are able to stick to our values and that we keep our costs down.
The strength of our community is based on the participation of all owners, and we have found that everyone has something to contribute to the whole. There is a wide variety of ways to participate: dinners (cooking and eating), games, music, working, meeting on the sidewalk … Oakcreek owners have the intention and desire to know their neighbors and participate to the best of their physical and temporal limits. All owners agree to participate on one “team” (two, maximum), and the work of planning, managing, operating, maintaining, and growing Oakcreek is divided among these various teams. We try to do the research and background work in teams and then propose actions to the whole community for their consensus.
Membership meetings are held monthly. Attending the monthly meetings is a responsibility we take very seriously, for this is where we all meet to make sure we are on the same page in regard to decisions about day-to-day living at Oakcreek. The meetings are very efficient and follow a timed-agenda format. Team reports and items for consideration are delivered electronically to all owners before the meeting, allowing members to come to meetings prepared with questions, comments and suggestions.
Decisions at Oakcreek are made based on our agreed-upon values, and the process we use for decision-making is akin to consensus. In a consensus model, there is no “winner” or “loser;” a decision is made according to what is best for the group and whether the decision is something that each member “can live with.” It is an amazing process that we are all learning more about each time we engage in it. The great thing about managing and operating our own community is that all decisions are our decisions and can be altered or completely revamped as the community sees the need for change.
One of cohousing’s great strengths is the assumption that members can work out their conflicts. It is not our intention that everyone be best friends; it is, however, our commitment to being good, respectful neighbors that makes even seemingly insurmountable problems manageable.
Yes. Pets should be leashed when outside of your home.
The entire property of Oakcreek is tobacco-free. Since our homes are attached, we have agreed that no smoking is allowed even inside your home.
Geothermal heating and cooling (ground source heat pump system) is installed in all private homes and the common house. We participate in the City of Stillwater curbside recycling program, and also recycle other items that aren’t included in the curbside program. We have a community composting operation, and have begun some limited vegetable gardening.
Oakcreek Community is designed for people who hope to “age in place” successfully. Community members keep an eye out for the safety and well-being of their neighbors, and care partners play an important role in mobilizing the community to help members in short-term situations by driving to doctor’s appointments, shopping, picking up mail, helping to provide meals, etc. And, care partners will help, as able, to obtain additional home health assistance from Stillwater community resources. However, it is not the role of community members to provide daily or long-term health care when a member can no longer perform the activities of daily living.
Homes in Oakcreek Community are privately owned, and it is the owner/heirs/estate that is responsible for selling the property. However, since it is in the community’s interest that new owners understand the concept of cohousing and know what to expect by joining Oakcreek, the community is prepared to assist the seller by helping to identify potential buyers, by publicizing the availability of the home, and by providing contact information for the seller and/or the seller’s realtor. The community will also provide an orientation to cohousing and to Oakcreek for potential buyers.