Re: Cohousing in Atlanta -- Gareth Fenley
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 93 13:10 CST
You might want to get in the review loop for the cohousing resource 
guide. This is a project underway by the Puget Sound Cohousing Network 
which has collected, and continues to collect development experiences 
from cohousing and intentional communities. It is in review form now 
and you can get in the review loop by calling 206-936-7157 or writing 
to Cohousing Resource Guide, 22020 East Lost Lake Rd., Snohomish, WA 98290
From: Martin Schafer  <netmail!schafer [at]>
To: Rob Sandelin
Subject: Re: Cohousing in Atlanta -- Gareth Fenley
Date: Wednesday, December 22, 1993 12:10PM

> We are open to either renovation of a warehouse or creating a cluster of
> homes around a garden courtyard.  One stipulation is we want all the
> units to have basic wheelchair access (a no-step front entrance).

Our experience was that local code requirements made rehabbing a
warehouse prohibitively expensive.  Maybe Atlanta would be different,
but try to check up on it before you lay out a lot of money to an
architect.  Some show stoppers can be the elevator (you want it anyway,
but it can run several hundred thousand),  a requirement for sprinklers
and or auto closing fire doors based on square footage per floor, a
required proportion of window area to square footage of dwelling (if
the building isn't long and narrow you can't make units small enough)

> None of us has much experience or, frankly, interest in finance or real
> estate.  This poses a big obstacle for us because we need to find
> suitable land and get a grasp on how we can afford to buy and build.
> We do have some great organizing and networking abilities... and we are
> coming up with an action plan to attract more members and publicize. One
> of us has experience working with government grants and we think we're
> willing to incur delays and red tape in order to explore non-profit
> status and Land Trust.
> If anyone has words of encouragement or caution I would welcome hearing
> from you.
> A couple of specific issues that raise questions are---
> 1. Is there any co-housing project or proposal anywhere that also is a
> Land Trust? Anyone with experience or advice about combining the two
> concepts?

While a Land Trust makes a nice conceptual fit with cohousing, you
establish your ownership structure with an eye on your financing.  You
will almost certainly be getting your construction loan from a bank,
and the individual owners will be getting mortgages from a bank, unless
the group holds a mortgage (you probably don't want to do that).   So,
the question is, what will banks in your area write mortgages on?  What
the ownership structure is, is not crucial to whether it feels like
cohousing, so if the bank will only lend for condo developments you
want to structure as a condominium, if they will lend for cooperatives,
or land trusts, great do whatever you want, but check with the banks
before you lock yourselves into something.

> 2. We will almost certainly be locating in a "transitional" urban
> neighborhood, close to the defining railroad tracks that separate white
> and black Atlanta.  We would like to become part of neighborhood
> revitalization.  All five of us so far are white.  Does anyone have
> advice on how our group can become multi-racial?  Advice on creating
> community in a bi-racial neighborhood?
> 3. How much acreage would be a reasonable range for an urban project of
> 20-24 units? (Remembering that for us, each unit needs one ground-level
> or ramped entrance, or else elevator access within a renovated
> warehouse-type building.)

Well, in Minneapolis, a lot of urban lots are 50' by 80'.  At that density
there are eight houses per acre.  You can squeeze closer with cohousing,
but about one and half acres is probably your bare minimum for the size
you're talking about.  At three acres you would have the same density
as an ordinary south Minneapolis neighborhood.  More than four acres
would be excessive.  It comes down to how much green space is how
important to you.

> 4. How can we come to a ballpark estimate of how much it will cost per
> person to buy into our project?  I see that forming groups give this
> figure, but I don't see how they get it.

Well you can get an upper number by calling a couple of builders and
asking what the average cost per residential square foot is.  Plug a
number for average unit size and share of common space, multiply and
there you are.  There will be ways to reduce this, but cutting more
than 30% is probably unrealistic.  In Minneapolis the number is
$65 per square foot.  Check with a non-profit builder as well as
regular one.

> Thanks..................    Gareth Fenley
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