Maybe developments are not what we need
From: Rob Sandelin (Exchange) (
Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 11:43:47 -0500
One thing you said sparked a thought:
>To me, the image of a group with wonderful
>process skills and no site and plan for development is not very appealing.
>But I am an impatient person, preferring more the action than the words;
>other temperaments may differ in their tolerance for things.
I know of a group which formed originally to design a cohousing
community then decided not to, but created a "virtual community"instead.
They get together for a rotating dinner club once a week, do things
together like ski trips and share a level of community.  They
collectively decided that what they WANTED was community, not a
development, and so they focused on building community instead of a
development.  Seems to be working pretty well after four years. Many of
these folks have moved into the same general area of Seattle to be
closer to their "virtual community".  Many of them are involved in
planning a large retreat this fall for all their friends  and one topic
will being creating and sustaining community.

One of the biggest hurdles I continually see is that groups form, hold a
dozen meetings, get really jazzed, then fall apart because they have no
luck finding a site.  There is a capital crunch as you point out, and
few groups have the staying power to overcome this hurdle.  I have seen
numerous cohousing groups in the Seattle area form, then disband over
the past 3 years, precisely due to this problem. The notion is great,
people are excited by it, but there is this economic barrier that gets
in the way.  One barrier, a huge one, is just the capital requirements
to own a home in the first place.  I did a seminar for a forming group
of  8 households.  Of the 8, 7 were first time homeowners, and although
I did not do an economic analysis, my general impression was that many
of these folks wanted to believe they could get into a cohousing unit at
less than $100K, something not very likely without quite a bit of
financial support from some agency somewhere.  They disbanded. I talked
with one of those folks on the phone the other day and you know what?
She misses the meetings. The potlucks and the discussions were great,
she said and she asked about forming groups.

So from my viewpoint, What I see is a first wave of cohousing in our
area, being followed by a much smaller second wave and no third wave at
all.  I hypothesize that the first two waves of projects have used up
most the cohousing development energy, and future people who are
interested will buy units when they come available in one of the 6 built
or building projects.

Since Seattle has 4 existing cohousing projects built, what I am seeing
is that projects that are starting up from scratch have to compete with
real units for sale.  The main way start-ups seem to be competing is to
try to frame their units as costing way less and of course, this is
possible, but mostly pipe dreams from the folks who spin it. It has been
done before, but when I hear very inexperienced cohousing wanta be's say
they want xyz, and they don't want to spend 4 years getting there, well
I smile, give them some resources I have, and wish them luck.  

Maybe instead of folks disbanding after getting hit with realities,
maybe somehow we can do a better job of creating what these folks want
in the first place: a greater sense of community. Seems to me, you don't
need a development to do that, just need connections to the right folks
and a commitment to make it happen.  

Being verbose and philosophical again.

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