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Monday, February 18, 2008

Ty Brethyn - a new type of FWBO community

Ty Brethyn – the "House of Cloth" - is a large old wool mill set in the hills behind the Welsh town of Llangollen. The old mill wheel was partly destroyed in the Second World War by a bomb, and since then it has hosted many people and many businesses. There is one large house, part of which was the weaving mill, and several outbuildings with lots of potential for future development.

Now it has been purchased and is being renovated by a group of Order Members, and has become a new type of FWBO community. The house lends itself to being divided up into separate units but with connecting doors and some communal space. The property feels secluded, though it's only a 10 minute walk into Llangollen, which is on the A5 almost equidistant between the two FWBO retreat centres Vajraloka and Taraloka.

It is new for at least two reasons. First, it is a new style of FWBO community, with families and single people living together with a mixed population of men, women, and children – seven people in all so far, with more still to arrive. Given that everyone has had to move, sometimes hundreds of miles, to Ty Brehin, the residents have had to consider carefully how to earn their livelihoods – and have come up with some innovative solutions. Tejapushpa, mother of Jaya, is an acupuncturist, still practicing part-time in Manchester and she has just set up a new practice in Llangollen; Satyavadita (Jaya's dad) is busy renovating the property (the cost of this was built-in to their initial budget); Kalyacitta has recently qualified in garden design and has set up a new gardening business; Kathryn and Vibhuti are parents of Phoebe, and Kathryn is a Career Coach, working mainly by phone and Vibhuti a mental health nurse.

Second, it is new becasue it has a well thought-out ownership structure based on standard co-operative rules - which have, however, been carefully modified to suit their particular needs. They hope this may become a template for other similar groups around the FWBO. Legally it is known as the ‘Ty Brethyn Housing Coop’, but enshrined in the constitution is a short ‘mission statement’ and some ‘secondary rules’ which aim to ensure that the ethos and values remain Buddhist in the years to come. This has required some careful thinking-through of rights and responsibilities, with many complex issues having to be considered, eg what happens when children grow up or if one or more residents cease to be Buddhists. One ingredient in their formula is the role of ‘mentors’, or ‘Guardian Members', who are people who will be non-resident guardians of the ethos of Ty Brethyn.

The property, and the five acres of land surrounding it, has been purchased using a mixture of capital contributed in the form of loanstock by the residents and a short term loan from a friend (or supporter) which will be repaid after 18 months by taking out a mortgage. This too has necessitated careful consideration, in particular considering how people might get their money back should they wish to leave.

After much discussion the ‘exit terms’ have been clarified - members wishing to leave will get their capital back plus appreciation at a level set by the UK’s RHPI (Retail House Price Index) but capped at 8%. This and many other details took extensive homework and meetings spread over many months, the final details are still be thrashed out even though the property has now been bought and occupied. An important ingredient in their success was five days consultancy, paid for by a grant they obtained, from UpStart, a cooperative based in Somerset, who provided invaluable advice on how to modify the standard coop rules. They would be happy to provide further details of their legal structure - please contact FWBO News if you are interested.

FWBO News wishes them every success in their new life.

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