Bryn Gweled Homesteads

Southampton, Pennsylvania, United States

  • Last updated: February 15, 2016 (1 year ago)
  • Listing created on: December 31, 1999

Mission Statement

Our intention is to curb housing speculation, reserve the environment and live and work cooperatively with our neighbors to provide a vibrant lifestyle within Bryn Gweled and in the larger community.

Community Description

Bryn Gweled (Welsh for “Hill of Vision”) is made up of a diverse group of people who share a way of life. We are young and old families, single parents and individuals who have chosen to live together on our wooded oasis and work cooperatively to maintain the place we call home. There are 76 two-acre leaseholds, 74 with homes, on 240 collectively owned acres in Upper Southampton, Bucks County. Our woods are a habitat for foxes, owls, deer, hawks, and many other species of animal and plant life. We share an organic community garden, a community swimming pool, tennis courts, a soccer field, and a community center where many activities are held. All of these are enjoyed and maintained by our members.
BG is a not-for-profit corporation owned by its members, each of whom is expected to contribute in some way toward the maintenance of the community. Each member is encouraged to serve on at least two volunteer committees, the names of which show the many ways we work together. They include Grounds and Planting, Health and Welfare, Children’s Activities, Community Activities, Property and Utilities, Roads, Community Center Maintenance, Swimming Pool, Environmental Stewardship and others.
The elected officials of the community include a Board of Directors and three committees. The President and Vice-President are elected from the Board. The Secretary is appointed by the President. Treasurer is a long term position, usually filled by a committed volunteer when it goes vacant (the present Treasurer is the fifth in 75 years).
One of our elected committees, Membership, meets with prospective members and introduces them to the opportunities and responsibilities of living here. The committee oversees the arrangement of small gatherings in members’ homes for the applicants to meet and learn more about the community and their prospective neighbors, and for both the applicant and community members to decide on goodness of fit. The applicant must finally be approved for membership by a 4/5 majority of the members.
Our other two elected committees are Housing and Nominating. Housing oversees home ownership transfers and works with Membership on mutual concerns. Membership and Housing are key to the functioning of the community because only leaseholders are members, and vice-versa, and while homes are individually owned, the owner of the home must also be the leaseholder of the lot on which it sits.
We consider all members our neighbors, even if they live at opposite ends of our roads. We are fortunate in being an ideal size for such a community; large enough to have a rich social and cultural fabric, and small enough for everyone to know each other.
Although large projects such as road repaving are done by contractors, the community does not employ anyone except summer lifeguards, so all of the work of managing our multi-million dollar corporation is done by volunteers. Getting these jobs done properly is occasionally something of a burden, and hiring a manager, either full or part time, is being considered.
The first Saturday of each month is the best time to visit and see Bryn Gweled in action. Visitors and available members are welcome to join in a work party from 9:00 until noon. Typical work party projects include maintenance of the buildings and roads, clearing invasive plants on common land, planting trees and shrubs and managing our deer population. In the evening we gather for a covered dish supper, sometimes called a potluck, and after that a business meeting. These meetings democratically cover the operation of the community, and include a wide range of topics including fun things such as celebrations and other activities to strictly business such as budget priorities. There is often heated debate, but issues are usually resolved by compromising in good community spirit. Sometimes there is a short “closed” portion at the beginning of the meeting to discuss membership issues, but otherwise visitors are welcome.
Since Bryn Gweled began we have committed ourselves to being an open and diverse community. The nature and extent of diversity shifts with time, but our goal remains constant. While our age diversity is strong, racial, cultural and ethnic diversity remains a challenge. We welcome people of all races and backgrounds, and have recently accepted new members of same-sex orientation as well as people of Hispanic and middle eastern origins. At one time we were more than 10% African American, but with more housing opportunities for people of color in recent decades, that number has dwindled. Our political and social views are predominantly progressive, but there is a conservative element of our membership as well.
  • Status: Established (At least 4+ adults, 2+ years)
  • Started Planning: 1935
  • Start Living Together: 1940
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Please read the details in Membership below before contacting this community. Send Message
  • Website address: http://www.BrynGweled.org
  • Contact Name: Bryn Gweled Homesteads
  • Phone: 215-953-8884
  • Community Address:
    1805 Meadow Rd.
    Southampton, Pennsylvania, 18966-4560
    United States
  • Location

About

  • Type(s): Cohousing (individual homes within group owned property)
  • Programs & Activities: Neighborhood, Community Housing, or Homeowner’s Association
  • Location: Suburban

Housing

  • Status: We have land we have developed on
  • Area: 240 acres
  • Current Residence Types: Single-family homes
  • Current Number of Residences: 74
  • Planned number of residences: 1
  • Planned Residence Types: Single-family homes
  • Housing Provided: Purchase, Rental
  • Land owned by: The entire community membership
  • Additional Comments:

    Our homes are all owned individually, the land on which our homes sit is owned in common, as are the Community Center, Garden, Swimming Pool, Sports Court and Streams, Woods, Pond.

Membership

  • Adult Members: 130
  • Child Members: 51
  • Non-member Residents: 5
  • Percent Women: 51-60%
  • Percent Men: 41-49%
  • Percent Transgender: 0%
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Visitor Process:

    Phone, write, or email us. Visitors are especially welcome on homesteads meeting day, usually the first Saturday of the month, but visitors may be received at other times, too, by arrangement. There are no overnight accommodations for visitors.

  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Membership Process:

    Anyone interested in becoming a member of Bryn Gweled must attend two business meetings (the first Saturday of each month, unless that is a holiday). After that, the Membership Committee meets with the applicants and guides them through a process which includes small group meetings, or visits, at members’ homes. We encourage applicants to attend work parties, covered dish suppers, and other community events to become familiar with what it means to become a community member. After these formal and informal meetings, the applicant becomes accepted with a 4/5 positive vote by all community members. Applicants become full members by signing a 99-year renewable lease on a lot. If a house occupies the lot, the transaction includes the purchase of the house.

  • Additional Comments:

    The practice of voting to accept applicants as members appears to put the power of selection in the hands of those who are already members. Some members abstain from voting because they find that objectionable, but all members are encouraged to meet with applicants, if only in order to become acquainted with their prospective neighbors. The membership procedure is as much a process of self-selection by interested applicants. As prospective members visit with us, they have the option of changing their minds and withdrawing their applications after each visit. They decide each time whether or not to continue, so the applicants as well as Bryn Gweled’s members finally arrive at a decision of whether this will be a good fit.

Government

  • Decision Making: Voting (majority or super-majority rule)
  • Identified Leader: Yes, multiple identified leaders
  • Leadership Core Group: No
  • Additional Comments:

    Each year we elect a President from the Board of Directors for a one-year term. The President conducts Board meetings and our general business meetings but otherwise does not have a position of great influence. Each year we elect 1/3 of the Board members for a three-year term. The Board meets monthly to consider community meeting issues and agendas and make recommendations to the membership, which also meets monthly.

    We usually use Majority rule, sometimes we opt for a super-majority (2/3 or 4/5 to pass a motion) and we try to maintain sensitivity to minority viewpoints

Economics

  • Join Fee: $4000
  • Dues, Fees, or Shared Expenses: Yes
  • Regular Fee per Month: $100
  • Shared Income: None
  • Required Labor Contribution: Encouraged or suggested
  • Open to members with existing debt: Yes (some debt)
  • Additional Comments:

    Members are expected to participate in at least two committees and in monthly work parties.

Sustainability Practices

  • Energy Infrastructure: We are connected to the grid.
  • Current renewable energy generation: Up to 25%
  • Energy sources: Solar, Biomass, Geothermal, Clean Energy from the Grid
  • Planned renewable energy generation: 26-49%
  • Current food produced: Up to 25%
  • Planned food produced: Up to 25%
  • Food produced locally: Up to 25%

Lifestyle

  • Common Facilities: Garden(s), Outbuilding(s), Swimming pond or pool, Tractor & Farm Equipment, Stage or Auditorium, Fire pit, Swingsets & play areas, Gym or sports area
  • Internet Available: Yes, individuals provide it
  • Internet Fast?: No, it is slow.
  • Cell Phone Service: Good for most people.
  • Shared meals: 1-3 times per month
  • Dietary Practice: Omnivorous (plants and animals)
  • Dietary Choice or Restrictions: No – people may eat however they wish.
  • Special Diets OK: Yes
  • Alcohol Use: Yes, used occasionally.
  • Tobacco Use: Yes, used occasionally.
  • Common Spiritual Practice(s): Ecumenical (accepts all religions or spiritual practices), Not a particularly spiritual or religious community, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Protestant, Lutheran, Catholic, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist, Mixed Eastern Philosophy or Practice, Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist
  • Education Style(s): Home Schooling, Private School off the property, Public Schooling, Up to each family or individual
  • Healthcare Options: Up to each family or individual

Additional Comments

Suburban Homesteading with organic gardens and livestock including bees, chickens, sheep and pigs. 25 miles north of center city Philadelphia.

Photo Gallery

Community Network or Organization Affiliations

The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC)

Keywords

Cooperative, Democratic, Diverse, Homesteading, Intentional, Open