Developer's Perspective on Coho
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 12:19:11 -0500
Hi everyone -

I'm a developer, and would like to offer my thoughts from a developer's
For background, I have orchestrated a number of award-winning projects, which
include large open spaces, and pedestrian oriented villages.  I
co-facilitated an 80 acre intentional community near Port Townsend,
Washington about 20 years ago, using the consensus model.  Here are some

What do people really want?  Some people really want to live in a cohousing
village, and some people are perfectly happy with the ongoing meetings and
processing.   Not that one perspective has a higher value than the other,
just noting the differences.  I don't think we should assume that everybody
wants the some thing.  For the people who really want something physical to
happen, the processing becomes very time consuming and frustrating, and they
may drop out if they don't see significant progress.  The people for whom
processing is the most important thing can feel pressured by the physical
folks.That's where the process managers come in, and try to make sure
everyone is feeling heard, and understood, which is certainly an important
part of the process. 

I wonder if it would make sense, at the start of a group, to invite people to
declare what's most important to them, and divide into a physical  action
group, and a discussion group?

Some thoughts on the consensus model.  As a developer, I'm in the physical
action group, and I really want to help make something happen.  Not that I
want to tromp on anyone else's feelings, but I want to keep things moving
forward.  And when we make a decision, I hope we don't have to come back and
completely rehash the decision when a new person joins the group.  One of the
frustrations of the consensus model is that the process, by definition, can
only move as fast as the most cautious member of the group will allow.  And
if the group is expanding, with new members coming in, they all have to be
brought up to speed, and given equal rights to participate.  The inherent
frustrations which come with the consensus model no doubt frustrate a lot a
creative, high energy people, who resist having to down-shift into low gear,
and proceed at a snails pace.  

Question:  Would it make any sense to use consensus decision making only for
the more social aspects of cohousing, like how often you prepare meals in the
common house, or rules about pets, and use a 2/3 majority  (or some other
majority) for issues related to site acquisition and project development?

Some thoughts on design, value, and potential appreciation.  There have been
many posts about building community support, and convincing lenders that
cohousing is not too great a risk.  I submit that design by committee can be
very risky.  A good developer or a good architect, understands how to include
"character" in a new development; and how to repeat certain key design
themes, to give the village a neighborly feeling.  A key is to have a balance
between too much sameness and too much diversity.  Many of the coho designs
I've seen are either too institutional, too cookie-cutter, or they are way
off the other end the scale, with disharmony of design.  It is possible to
have good design for moderately priced housing; and more good design in coho
wound help with the acceptability and appreciation.

Most developers would not be interested in working with coho groups because
of the time involved in the decision making, and also because of the time in
educating the group to the process and cost realities.  Residential builders
are often frustrated just working with a husband and a wife on a custom home,
and sometimes acting as a marriage counselor to facilitate all the decisions
which go into one home.  When that is multiplied by several homes and a wide
range of divergent interests, it gets pretty scary for a developer.

In conclusion, I think involving a developer can expedite transforming the
coho dream into reality, but only if some fast track decision making process
can be implemented.

Thanks for your time and consideration, and I welcome any comments.

Randy Tyler, President
The Community Development Collaborative
Innovative Village Development
TylerRandy [at]

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