Initial budgeting
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 23:28:59 -0700 (MST)
RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA (now in our eleventh year, and soon 
to sell our last two lots, of 24). 

We are a "lot development" model, which means everyone deals with their 
own house financing, design and construction. But we still had to budget 
for the purchase of our land, the installation of infrastructure (roads, 
sewer, water,  drainage, phone, electric, parking, street signs, fire 
hydrants, sewer cleanouts, etc., plus any paid work involved in 
supervising the infrastructure process), and the  creation of our common 

We are a "nonprofit" corporation, but we took that rather too literally. 
"Reasonable reserves" are allowed a nonprofit, and we did not take into 
account a number of factors. We naively figured how many lots we'd have, 
how much each lot would sell for, and made that total match with the 
total expenses of buying the land, projected infrastructure cost, and 
projected common house cost. 

What we didn't take into account---and should have--- was that time was 
going to pass, years in fact, during which time we would still be the 
ones paying the property tax on some lots which were still unsold; the 
cost of installing infrastructure, and creating a common house, would 
rise significantly, and there would be other needs, like money for 
landscaping the commons, which we inadequately addressed in the initial 
development budget. 

So cut yourself some slack, you'll need it. You might figure that at 
least one of your projected lots is an "extra", and when all but that one 
has sold, you will have broken even. Figure in the cost of taxes and 
inflation, if it's not all happening at once. It's fairly certain that it 
will take longer and cost more than you think. 

PS We survived our naivete. Our common house programming had to be 
trimmed some, but we brought our infrastructure in on budget, we tucked 
some should-have-been-development budget items into each year's 
"operating" budget, and had some help from member donations. So mistakes 
needn't be fatal, but it's nice to make original mistakes, rather than 
ones you were told to avoid!  If only we'd been hooked in to the Internet 
and lists like this one, ten years ago. 

PPS We didn't do a sliding scale based on ability, but our lots varied in 
size, location, etc, and there was about a $10K range in lot prices, if I 
remember right. And designing our own houses left a range of expense for 
the house, according to taste and means. We also had members buy two lots 
and donate them to Habitat for Humanity, as part of a deal we made with 
them, to assist two lower-income families in joining us. We also have 
some homes with built-in apartments, some of which are rentals. 

Lynn Nadeau
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