The Suvana Cohousing Board met at Thrive Cafe in Cambridge on 24th October 2021, that a number of cocreators attended too.
The Chair, Tejasvini, gave the following report. If you would like a copy of the accounts, please email.
Chair’s report 2021
This is the second year that Suvana Cohousing has been up and running as a registered company, and we are growing both in experience and a feeling that the group is coming together and functioning well.
The board of directors has changed a little, and now comprises the following people: Vimaladipa (Imogen Tennison) (Secretary), Jeremy Peters, Ian Collins, Lee Walford (Arwen) (Treasurer) and Tejasvini (Rosie Bell) (chair). The executive group comprises the directors plus Kamalamati (Mary Wild) (Membership), Dayanita (Christiane Meckseper) and Ray Brown. We would like to express our thanks to all of them, and also to Sarvajit and to Cittamodani who have stepped down as directors, but who both made very valuable contributions: Sarvajit as our treasurer, and Cittamodani as the person who put in most of the work developing the land brief and the allocations policy.
Our 20 cocreators are very much part of the project and we have had several meetings with them, reviewing what might be possible locations, a social event and talks from two members of the exec. The cocreators’ enthusiasm, engagement and ideas feed in to the exec who are doing most of the behind-the-scenes work, and the exec is also drawn from them.
The main areas focussed on this year have been searching for a site, developing contacts, and working on a business and financial plan, so that if a site becomes available that would not be suitable for a developer to be involved, the exec can move quickly to secure it. There have been a number of local events which were organised by the Council, looking at updating the local plan for Cambridge, and at possible new developments around Cambridge, and Suvana’s presence made sure that Cohousing was mentioned and promoted in these forums.
A number of sites have been looked at by different members of the exec. With experience we are narrowing down what we are looking for. The beautiful dilapidated farm, with masses of potential, would have proved too complicated and costly, with a lot of planning issues as it was both in the green belt and a conservation area. A gem for someone! We also looked at two sites next to each other that had been entertainment venues, which were on the river in Cambridge and so very central, but financially didn’t add up. Similarly there was a former water pumping station that had been converted into office space, but without planning to convert to residential use we couldn’t have raised the finance.
We have had meetings with representatives from two possible lenders, both of which were encouraging, and also challenging as we will need to raise 20% of the capital if we go down this route rather than with a developer. We are having further talks with a local developer who has experience of community projects.
We nearly obtained another grant, this one from Eastern Community Homes to enable us to bring in a consultant to assist finishing the business and financial plan. Although it was approved, Eastern Community Homes had misunderstood the conditions of the grant and it was approved too late to succeed, as the money would have had to have been spent by 30th September. Our business planning team are taking it forward at present.
Although the main challenge at the moment is finding a site, we are doing valuable work putting in place the policies and structures we will need to progress once we do have a site. We are confident we will get there in time, and that persistence will pay off. The vision of building a Buddhist community, living together but with our own front doors, still holds. Particularly the aspiration of Buddhist almshouses for Triratna retirees helps keep the vision and the project alive and growing.