An alternative to the cohousing development ordeal
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 93 14:20 CST
Hello, I've been monitoring the conversation here for awhile, and I have a
question for you co-housers. My wife and I seriously considered starting a
co-housing group in Boise, Idaho, but decided not to.  We're attracted to the 
idea of a living in a co-housing community. But, we're also put-off by the 
difficult and risk-prone process of launching a co-housing community.
A major component of the co-housing concept is to form a core group of
future inhabitants for the purpose of designing the development. Design of a
housing development is a complex process, full of zillions of decisions both
large and small. Trying to do this in a group setting, using concensus 
decision-making, seems to me like an nearly impossible prospect. No wonder so
many cohousing groups burn out!

Is the premise behind this self-inflicted torture the idea that the co-housing
community will better suit the needs of its inhabitants? Is it to develop 
camaraderie among future neighbors? Well, it may work that way for the core 
group members, those who suffered through the ordeal together. But cohousing 
projects often have units unsold even after construction is complete. Are the 
"late-comers" who purchase these units at a disadvantage because they didn't 
participate up front? 
Over time, inhabitants come and go, until the day comes when all of the core 
group members are gone. Does the development continue to meet the needs of its
inhabitants? Is the community still close-knit? Is there still camaraderie 
among neighbors? I hope so! 
The point of all this is that I question the need to design a co-housing
community by committee. In fact, there might even be a better way.
What if there was a developer who knew the housing business well, and decided

to develop a co-housing community. First, she surveys potential inhabitants
to establish some overall objectives for the project. Then, she sends a skilled
architect to study existing co-housing communities and identify their strong
and weak points. The architect then designs a development that addresses the 
design objectives, incorporates the best of the existing communities, and suits
the site selected. One objective might be to make the dwellings somewhat
modular, so that they can be easily modified to suit the needs of their
occupants, even after they're built.
With less people involved, this approach should go much faster. And if the 
co-housing concept meets a real need, then this development should attract 
eager buyers, right? The big question is, what would be lost in leaving it all
up to the developer rather than going through the "traditional" co-housing 
development process?
Martin Danner
mdanner [at]
(208) 389-9215

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