Re: An alternative to the cohousing development ordeal
From: Fred H Olson -- WB0YQM (FRED%JWHVX.CIS.UMN.EDU)
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 93 16:44 CST
 
Martin Writes:...
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
 
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?
================================================================== 
It sounds wonderful to me, in some ways.  And I think is something like what
happened with Almeida Commons in New Mexico.  I don't know much about it (read
2 articles, 1 in the Natl newsletter and one in some architectural journal).
The key is to find a developer convinced there is enough of a market to take
the risks, I think.  And then the question is, what sort of a Cohousing
community would it be - I wonder if the units would be normal market housing,
PLUS common space, so therefore skewing the residents to those affording to
spend a considerable chunk more for housing.  I'm told there are some such
developments for seniors, only they have less focus on community and are much
larger in size (i e. number of units)
 
I completely agree - this process is more demanding than it needs to be - AND I
don't really know how to change that.  I'd love it if cohousing developments
became normal alternatives - I think you could leave enough decision making for
the group to help develop the community.
 
 
There certainly are many ways to go about getting to cohousing.  This developer
question keeps coming up - but so far hasn't happened much.  Davis / Muir
Commons had a developer and also did the community design/decision stuff.
 
JUDY
 
Judy Baxter, Monterey Cohousing Community, Twin Cities Area,
Mpls/St.Paul MN
    (Mococo)        baxter%epivax [at] vx.cis.umn.edu
Twin Cities CoHousing Network Voice Mail  612-930-7580
 

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