Retrofit in Toronto
From: Julie Busch (
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1998 00:48:45 -0500
Thanks all for your replies.
Thanks Rob, I had already started searching/wading thru all relevant
aspects of IC web page AND done searches under "retrofit" AND pored thru
as much as my weary eyes could manage at two sittings, the Coho
archives. I can appreciate everybody on this list is providing forums
for info exchange and would prefer not to rehash stuff that is easily
retrieved from archives...:) clarify around a message Mykano sent me. 
> Julie, why don't you tell us more about the vision your community has:
> Are you hoping to acquire one house at a time like N Street or a place 
> where you can buy two or more?
> Have you chosen the neighborhood you want yet?
> What kinds of questions do you have that other pioneers might answer? You 
> mentioned financing options?
> Is your group mixed incomes or mostly low, middle or high? 
> Do you plan to haveco-owned dwellings or mostly single family or...?
> Mykano

Our group, at present, is an evolving core of approx. 20 adults, 6 kids:
some singles, some couples, some families of one or two parents. WE are
of mixed ages (life phases), mixed income (fixed, lower, middle to upper
middle). We also have at present an uneven mix of owners (less) and
renters (more). The plan is to group together into "buying groups" who
pool downpayments and/or match owners with renters, to cover mortgages,
then, much like N Street, to purchase each place separately; not as an
equity co-op or condo style group. WE have financial and legal
structuring information to find. 

We are exploring the concurrent first purchases of 2 or 3 adjoining
properties, each with a house that could be divided up into 2-3 living
spaces, thereby getting 4-6 units of people into one physical spot to
seed further expansion around that area. Realty does turn over like that
- It is not that unusual. We figure that will create a sufficient mass
to catalyze further growth! (I am sorry to hear of fred h. olson's past
struggles to get his other place sold - would you consider relocating

WE *plan/wish* to have a mix of single family dwellings and larger
houses, divided into apartments or left as shared homes (2-? group
together in undivided space), again like N Street. If it works out,
maybe a larger multiunit building with apartments.The COMMON HOUSE then
becomes the COMMON PARTS/SPACES each house could contribute to the
community. With our two season long winters (I mean 3-5 months of
indoors preferred weather), we envision possibly including things like a
basement converted to kid's playspace, sauna, laundry, common home
office, library, craftsroom, toolroom, mainfloor common meal space with
adjoining living room/sunrroom. I guess it's apparent we're trying to
create diversity for financial and living options, which with Ontario's
ultraconservative "business first, slash the funding" government may be
dreaming REAL BIG !! We do have the possibility, if affordable, of
getting LARGE houses close to smaller 2-3 bedroom row houses, with
pretty reasonable yardsizes. 

We have targetted complete blocks/portions of city blocks in the larger
neighbourhood "Riverdale". We coded them by agreeing on a set of minimum
features (brainstormed and consensed! eg; no alleys cutting the
community in half, diversity of house size and price, greenspace, good
schools, 10-15 minute walk from subway line) and then coded
topographical maps of the neighbourhood by "green/yellow/red" aka
good/iffy/discard. This map is our *CENTRAL GUIDE* to be a work in
progress to get us to where we have identified some number of areas
those first purchases could be made by our potential buying groups.
Something along the lines of generating trust and agreement amongst the
core members to where "If you go on holiday and come back and they've
bought you would want to buy there too"  Sounds reasonable? That part
was easy ;)  We believe Scott's assertions and our own various life
experiences that show organic growth is just fine. We'll see how
patience is tested as we then await those further purchases. :) 

I found the archived list notes about believing somehow retrofit is
"easier" than "groundup". Our model certainly has one big difference in
our eyes: How do you empower renters (who may be so by choice, not lack
of $) and acknowledge that the people with the downpayment $ have power
in legal and financial arenas? The ONLY difference between a buyer and
renter may be that downpayment$ !  Yet consider the difference in their
choices... WE have a case like this: A buyer who cannot afford a whole
house alone, wishes to match up with suitable renter(s) so they can all
be in nicer living quarters AND in cohousing. Both need each other to

We wish to *CAREFULLY* tease apart the difference between the
legal/financial relationships amongst group members (basically the
owner/renter issue) AND the social/cooperative relationships of a pool
of peers coming together to share resources - material and otherwise -
to build community that acknowledges and cherishes the uniqueness we all
bring to it. 

Now comes our nitty gritty questions. As a RETROFIT, we won't have
bathroomtile colour type questions to solve ;) more like does the
bathroom work (chuckles). We are trying to decide:
HOW to empower renters and clarify what factors buyers should have say
Do buyers get a say over who rents from them? 
how much, under the different configurations that could take, including
absentee owner?
How are we constrained legally/financially on joint ownerships?
How do we deal with existing tenants on multi unit purchases? Yes, I'm
aware they may join in - how's that affect the renters in community
already waiting to get in? 
Since each house could operate as a separate entity (like N Street),  
can we have owners and renters come up with working sideagreements on 
responsibility for maintenance. How does that impact common spaces? 

How do you account for sweat equity when $ equity is so variable? 
The renters could build sweat equity (on some agreeable terms), how can
that be translated to $ equity in their living unit, so they have a
chance to benefit $wise if they or the owner move on? 
Is that too much to ask? Why? 
As one member put it, rather bluntly, "Is one of the expectations of
cohousing that I subsidize others?" I have no answers (yet?). There is
this "entanglement" of everyone benefitting from the socioemotional
community that ALL contribute to that is not present in other
ownership/rental models. I see the renter/owner issue being integral to
how our community will proceed and wonder how it will impact further
visioning and the community building work. THese are all good people.
I'd like to think we can find good answers. I'm looking to Edward de
Bono's  book -Conflict- on rethinking the argumentative us/them
mentality of conflict resolution. He is persuasive about altering the
paradigm. Quite inspiring. Oh, and Yes, I've found the conflict
resolution/facilitation site! 

Anyways, my brain is toast, it's 1:30 a.m. and my typing fingers are
stumbling. We'd appreciate any helpful input. 

trying to balance a desire to predict the future and a belief all will
happen as it is meant to.

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