Bitternut Urban Homestead Collective

Last updated: October 21, 2015 (1 month ago)

Listing created on: January 12, 2013

Bitternut Urban Homestead Collective

(Syracuse, New York, United States)

  • Status: Established
  • Started Planning: 2010
  • Start Living Together: 2013
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Facebook:
  • Contact Name: Frank Cetera
  • Phone: 315-308-1372
  • Address:
    717 Otisco St
    Syracuse, New York, 13204
    United States
  • Visitor Process

    Visitors accepted: Yes
    Contact us through or listed contact individuals to arrange for a visit. Walk-ins are welcome, but cannot always be expected to be accommodated if residents are busy with life. Visitors are also encouraged to come to regularly scheduled events for visiting such as potlucks or Permaculture/Natural Building educational workshops and hands-on work days.

  • Membership Process

    Open to new Members: Yes
    Q&A via email, in-person or online verbal and visual conversation, visit to the house.

Mission Statement:

Ecological Social Justice

Community Description:

The Bitternut Homestead (named after the Native American Iroquois word Otisco, or Us-te-ke, meaning “bitter-nut-hickory”) is a 4 bedroom home in Syracuse’s Near West Side (NWS) just off of downtown. Syracuse is a city of 145,000 people, and the NWS is an urban community with high racial, but low economic, diversity – a median income of $25,653 exists in the bottom 3.5% of national zip codes.

The house at 717 Otisco St is a 100-year old renovated Victorian purchased in 2010 for $1 from Home Headquarters (HHQ), a local quasi-governmental/non-profit housing agency. The house had been vacant for 3-4 years at the time of purchase, and required new plumbing, electric, heating, hot water, structural repairs from water and animal damage, and major interior and exterior finish work. For instance, all window glass was broken and would be replaced while preserving the original wooden frames and sills.

Residents of the Homestead live and “act” together, a primary strategy for creating community. Desired shared chores include cooking, shopping, cleaning, trash/recycling, gardening, and other tasks including a spring and fall cleaning day, and a spring and fall gardening day. The grounds are landscaped according to Permaculture principles & design, the original owner Frank Cetera being a local Permaculture educator and designer. The Collective also houses the operations desk/office of The Alchemical Nursery, a non-profit organization working to create “Regenerative Landscapes and Lifestyles” utilizing strategies from the realms of Permaculture, mutual aid, eco-socialism, social justice, & ecovillage philosophies & methodologies; and this year hosted a campaign HQ office for a resident’s Green Party run for city council.

Natural building & simple living are also strategies being utilized. Heating is currently through electric baseboard heating for instance. Although electric heating is initially more expensive from the supply side, it was chosen because it is less expensive to install, allows zoned control in each room, can be supplied by solar panels in the future, can be secondary/supplementary only when wood burning appliance is installed, and to keep natural gas out of this “Anti-Fracking House”. Other techniques include interior natural clay plastering and homemade paints, hugelkultur garden beds made from downed woody debris, hand finished floors (scraping, sanding, treating with linseed oil).


  • Adult Members: 6
  • Non-member Residents: 1
  • Percent Women: 71-80%
  • Percent Men: 11-20%
  • Percent Transgender: 0%
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Additional Comments: There is a shared office space room.

Social Factors

  • Common Spiritual Practice(s): Not a particularly spiritual or religious Community
  • Education Style(s): Up to each individual
  • Healthcare Style(s): Up to each individual


  • Type: Shared Housing or Co-Living (multiple individuals sharing a dwelling.)
  • Decision Making: Consensus (everyone agrees)
  • Identified Leader: No
  • Leadership Core Group: Yes
  • Additional Comments: The residents of the Collective are considered the core leadership.

Land and Buildings

  • Area: 0.1 acres
  • Land owned by: Individual community member(s)
  • Current Number of Residences: 6
  • Current renewable energy generation: 100%
  • Planned renewable energy generation: Up to 25%
  • Energy sources: Connected to the Grid, Solar
  • Additional Comments: Planned wood burning stove for 2016 installation.

Labor and Money

  • Shared Income: Members have completely independent finances
  • Dues, Fees, or Shared Expenses: No
  • Open to members with existing debt: Yes


  • Required Labor Contribution: 0


  • Additional Comments: Shared chores, and quarterly work days. $400 room deposit when moving in.



  • Shared meals: About once a week
  • Current food produced: Up to 25%


  • Planned food produced: Between 25-50%


  • Food produced locally: From 50-75%


  • Dietary Choice or Restrictions: Somewhat important – there are some dietary restrictions or customs.
  • Dietary Practice: Omnivorous (plants and animals), Local (food sourced within 100 miles), Organic (no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers), GMO Free (only non-genetically modified organisms), Vegetarian (no animal meat; dairy and eggs okay), Mostly Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan, Opportunivore (dumpster diving, nature harvesting, etc.)


  • Alcohol Use: Yes, used occasionally.


  • Tobacco Use: Yes, used seldomly, or ceremoniously.


  • Additional comments: Meat being cooked in the kitchen shall use separate cooking implements. Potluck dishes are encouraged to be vegan.


Additional Comments

We have space for a trailer or tiny house build on site, when our bedrooms are full, to expand the size of our community. Let us know if that is something you are interested in pursuing.

Photo Gallery

Community Affiliations

Bread and Roses Collective House, Celowy Home, Common Place Land Cooperative, New Environment Association


ecology, garden, urban, homestead, social justice,

We happily link to the following organizations, all of whom share our strong commitment to promoting community and a more cooperative world:
Cohousing The Federation of Egalitarian Communities - Communes Coop Community Cooperative Sustainable Intentional North American Students of Cooperation Global Ecovillage Network
Special thanks to the sponsors of our Art of Community Events.
Bryan Bowan Architects California Cohousing International Communes Desk ICSA NICA Wolf Creek Lodge