Re: covering startup and infrastructure costs
From: Fred H. Olson (
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 12:56:38 -0500
Lynn Nadeau <welcome [at]>
is the author of the message below but due to a problem it was posted
by the Fred the list manager: owner-cohousing-L [at]
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

In the case of RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA, we did not use bank 
financing. This could be the case in another group either because a 
financial institution was unwilling to loan, or because the members were 
unwilling or unable to go into debt. 

In short, the way we did it here was "pay as the money becomes available" 
and "keep costs low." We purchased our land on a purchase-option plan we 
made with the seller, which allowed us to keep our option on 8 acres, 
while only needing to initiate the purchase of one additional acre every 
six months, with $5000 and then to make monthly payments on such land. 
Since we were also doing all the development planning ourselves, in rare 
free time, the time lag this caused was not a problem. New members showed 
up, or early members added to their future-equity credit, in time to keep 
up the purchase this way. 

Infrastructure was not installed immediately after we completed our 
Planned Unit Development agreement with the city, but waited till we had 
enough new buy-ins to cover the costs. We also saved money, though 
definitely not time, by doing almost everything ourselves, rather than 
hiring consultants, designers, etc. 

We chose the lot-development model, so a buy-in supplied the cohousing 
project with money for the development (land, infrastructure, common 
facilities) but the cost of house- building was up to the lot owner, who 
could build to their own timetable, budget, and design.  

Had we all bought in at once, part of each buy-in would have been for 
land, part for infrastructure (roads, utilities, drainage, etc), and part 
for common house. Instead, we used all the money that came in, in 
sequence, for whatever we  needed to accomplish next. We couldn't install 
infrastructure till we owned the land, couldn't build anything till the 
infrastructure was installed, and only now, years into the process, are 
we funded to build the common house. 

There are definite trade-offs. Doing the work and decision-making 
together for years builds community. And years go by and the little 
children become big children. On the other hand, we took no big financial 
risks, and at worst would have ended up living on some nice land in a 
great small town, with friends living nearby. 

I have never suggested that this is the best or only way to go. But so 
many cohousings are done on a faster track, necessitating much more money 
up front, that I think it  useful to put out the example that says, "You 
can still build community, and have a cohousing project, even if you 
don't have the means to do it all at once." 

Lynn Nadeau
RoseWind Cohousing, now 20 families, 16 houses built or building, and our 
last few lots available. Looks like we are about to close a deal with 
Habitat for Humanity on two of our last lots, thanks to certain members 
who are funding the lot purchase for Habitat. 

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