By Sarvajit and Jeremy Peters

Firstly, thank-you to all those that attended our workshop on Sunday 8th December – 14 cocreators attended, which is over half of our signed-up membership, so a great showing. The energy, enthusiasm and engagement were excellent (check out the alliteration!), and the analysis and debate around what we are looking for in a cohousing site was very illuminating. 

The workshop’s objectives were:

  1. to establish a sense of realism around location and price
  2. to get a better understanding for what the group’s key criteria for site location are
  3. to provide an opportunity for cocreators to meet each other and socialise – this last one was helped by some wonderful vegan cakes from Tejasvini and Jane!

The meeting was provided with some initial information on three key aspects of our cohousing initiative:

  • Price and location – Imogen introduced a price heat-map which showed how property prices vary across the Cambridge region. No surprises, in that it basically gets more expensive the closer to Cambridge city centre you are, but illuminating how much of a difference location can make.
  • Affordability – Tejasvini ran through some options for affordable housing, which includes social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership. There are guidelines on what mix of housing we would be allowed for any site. It is a complex issue but the bottom line is that the spread of properties we would like (in terms of house ownership, shared owners, community houses, alms houses and affordable rent) maps quite well to the Council guidelines.
  • Site criteria – Jeremy gave an overview of the results of the survey we asked all cocreators to complete, ranking what was important to them when choosing a location. Interestingly, whilst price and access to Cambridge Buddhist Centre by bus and cycle (and traffic noise/pollution) came out as most important, all the criteria (notably aesthetics and access to green space) were felt to be important by different people, thus giving us confidence that the issues Imogen and Jenny had identified for the survey were indeed the key ones. 

The bulk of the meeting however was taken up by working together to review four potential sites – two in Cambridge (Cherry Hinton Road and North-West Cambridge), one in a village on the outskirts (Comberton) and one further out (Willingham). 

Each was analysed in terms of prices for various types of property, and then against the site evaluation document produced by Jenny based on the criteria from the survey. The results are summarised in the following table (open this blog post fully to read):

WillinghamCombertonCherry Hinton RoadNorth West Cambridge
Distance from CBC (miles)126.522.5
Price range (£K)

1 bed240165 – 200299 – 380314 – 380
2 bed230 – 260200 – 220272 – 412398 – 400
3 bed290 – 360280 – 425450 – 600550 – 700
Site evaluation scores2021.52022
Affordability votes1565

The analysis was very time constrained and somewhat subjective, so it is dangerous to read too much into the results, but the following were the key conclusions:

  • Distance and access (via bike and/or bus) to the Buddhist Centre is a major concern.
  • The differential between prices in Cambridge and on the outskirts is large!
  • The site evaluation scores for all four sites were largely similar. It was felt this was probably because two key factors cancelled each other out – price/aesthetics/traffic issues scored well for the out-of-town sites whereas access/amenities scored well in-town.
  • Interestingly, having done the scoring we asked attendees whether they would like to live in each site. Nine of those that voted wanted to live in a town site, whereas only two wanted to live further out.
  • Those that had said they would like to live at each site were then asked whether they could afford to. 

Make of that what you will! There were no firm conclusions, but we certainly gained a greater understanding of the trade-offs we will need to consider when weighing up site location versus price. 

One feeling of the group was that perhaps a compromise is a site on the fringes of Cambridge, perhaps up to five miles from the Buddhist Centre.

In terms of next steps, we will send out a new survey to cocreators shortly, to get a better understanding of what sites we should realistically be looking for that will meet the aspirations of us all. 

Since the workshop, an opportunity has arisen to work with a developer in relation to bidding for a specific site. Keep posted for news – by becoming a cocreator (if you aren’t already) or by subscribing to our newsletter or following our Instagram.