|All's Happenin' on the Wasatch Front||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: John Major (jmajordayna.com)|
|Date: Mon, 3 Jun 1996 23:40:13 -0500|
Since folks are "reporting in", a valuable process both from the morale and information points of view, I thought I'd let you all know how things are going in Utah. I have to confess that I only turn gratefully to the list when I'm desparate for some advice about some crucial milestone coming up, because so many things are on the "ToDo" list ahead of CoHousing-L, so mostly, I justs lurks. But we've been plowing through the frontier, following the tracks of the groups ahead of us, and have lots of news to report. We just yesterday consensed (isn't that an official English word by now, at least on this list? ;-) on our site plan, for submission to the city for rezoning approval, and will be submitting to the planning staff this week. We decided to let all current full and associate member households pick home sites before submitting the site plan, which delayed things a few weeks as the architects responded. But I think folks are much more comfortable with the plan now, and you can see families doing the "imagining" work as they look at the schematics, visualizing children running about, and cups of morning coffee in the porch sun... An interesting thing about this plan - we were just about ready to submit it about three weeks ago, but tension surfaced between the "Let's Go With It" folks, and the "Let's Think About This" folks. We sent things back to the architects with a lot of feedback, and they came back with something *much* better. Once again, the combined intelligence of the group produces the optimal result. We have had an amazing time figuring out just how much detail was going to be required for our submissions to the city planning staff, and even now, when one of the staff has joined us (aaahh!), it is still ambiguous. Our architects couldn't really say, the staff couldn't really tell us, and we never got the same answer twice, just how much detail had to be in the site plan, and how firm the elevations had to be. It turns out that around here most developers have done *most* of the design work before they submit their condo and/or zoning application, and so we are trying something a little new here, getting them to approve the project with less information available. Interesting process, this. The city has been pretty supportive, and we talked to the neighbors carefully and at length (following excellent advice from you folks), so we are pretty confident. Amusingly, one fear raised a few times by the fringes in our public meetings was not that we were hippies, but that we were polygamists! ("Lady, we're only talking about sharing *lawnmowers* here....") Here in the desert we always have our own slant on things... We have our land secured, and will have to come up with some substantial downpayments soon. We have been *very* lucky in that the group was started by a member who owned the land, and who has bent over backwards helping the group "get it built". We are going into an intense design phase over the next few months, and if we can get the construction drawings done quickly enough, we might be able to break ground before the snow arrives. A question for you greyhairs of the community at large - how long did it take you to go from finalized site plan to breaking ground? What was on the critical path? We have some banks lined up, we think, so it appears that the design work is going to determine that crucial date. Any advice about speeding discussions about windows, kitchen layout, etc. along? We have good meeting skills by now, but there's so much to look at. whew.... ;-) We are submitting an application for $$ to build 5 "CROWN" homes - these are financed using tax credits, and are rent-to-own affordable housing. Again, cudos to the list for urging us to go to this trouble, because there are few immediate benefits to the group. That leaves us to finance another 20 units, and of those, it appears that 14 are spoken for! We had four households go swiftly from vacilating associates to committed members as soon as we: - figured out how we were really going to finance things - started picking spots on the site plan ("Hurry now! Sites going fast!!") Ah, financing - I haven't heard our approach discussed on the list, so perhaps folks would find it interesting. First, the Planning committee had to identify the "shortfall" (that's really what the banks call it, the difference between what it costs to build all these houses, and what they will loan you...), and explain it clearly to the group as a whole. It was very important that everyone understand what was required of us to make this thing a reality. Then we put forth a request - which members are willing to borrow against their current assets (homes, retirement funds, etc.) in order to come up with this huge chunk of cash to build the units? And how much? Well, most everyone stepped forward with something, so it looks like we can keep monthly assessments fairly low, and use them to cover the interest paid to members, as well as expenses. Our $300 (single)/$400 (multi) monthly assessments aren't too high to force out families that can afford to *buy* a home, but don't have the resources to *build* one. Sorry, folks - I've gone on way too long, so that's the news from Lake Salt City, Where All the Women Are Strong, All The.... ("oh, stop it...") John Major Wasatch CoHousing jmajor [at] dayna.com
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