Re: Rhapsodizing about Retrofit
From: Kevin Wolf (
Date: Sat, 14 Feb 1998 13:00:09 -0600
At 08:05 PM 2/13/98 -0600, Sanda Everette wrote:
>Though we did not do a site search; we just decided we wanted to live
>where we were currently renting, this site does meet much of the
>criteria that you describe.

At N Street, we also began as renters who bought the first home from our
landlord.  One of the reasons N Street could begin is I committed to live
in this neighborhood and make the house I had bought my permanent home.
When an opportunity came to form a partnership to buy the two houses next
door, it was a natural thing to do since I had no "dream" of finding the
greener grass on the other side of the hill.  

We know of four seperate groups of other friends (two in Santa Cruz and two
in Davis) who have torn down fences with their neighbors.  Two of these
groups want to eventually become an N Street type cohousing project.  They
are on a ten year time line and hope that over the next decade they can
have friends and potential community members buy or rent the surrounding
block of homes.  The other two groups are happy at their two and three
linked homes and don't envision getting larger but are open to it.  

Long term thinking and patience, on going friendliness with neighbors,
sharing the dream with others, and enjoying the benefits of even two homes
linked seem to be valuable virtues to have in creating a retrofit
community.  The other way is to find a neighborhood like ours which is
mostly rental property and agressively take over a block.  Because most
rentals turn over very rapidly, and cohousing renters are usually much
better than the usual tenants, landlords can see the advantage of renting
to cohousing people.  There is a negative to this in that, at least here,
some of the landlords now have no interest in selling because they have a
stable rental base without the usual problems that make landlords want to
get out of the business.   We were able to convince a number of our
landlords to sell to us by explaining how they could save the real estate
commission (6%) by selling to us now.  (In most cases we split the real
estate commission and after agreeing on an appraised value for the house,
reduce the price by 3%.)

We now have two homes from across the street whose families regulary
participate in our community meals and functions.  It certainly seems
possible that one can create a non-contiguous retrofit community, though
the many spontaneous interactions of having the same backyards and crossing
paths with each other on the way to the chickens, laundry facilities,
tools, gardens etc would be lessened.  

Kevin Wolf
kjwolf [at]

Build community and lessen the hegemony of the corporate consumer culture.

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