Re: co-hou-du-sac?
From: Mark Richardson (
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000 16:35:28 -0600 (MDT)
Todd and Betsy in Texas,,

My wife and I have had similar discussions regarding building a "whole" 
community, and the use of existing/new neighborhoods to create that.  I work 
with a non-profit organization that has produced many "neighborhoods" on the 
self-help building principal.  Under private and federal programs, a group 
of folks, 10-20 families will work together to build their homes (the 
non-skilled portion, anyway)  This often takes over a year or two, and the 
families have developed bonds that continue after they move in.  I'm sure 
this approach happens in Texas also, but the government program is for 
low-moderte income folks only.

An ongoing example of taking a "normal" neighborhood street and twisting it 
into something like co-housing is the "N" Street project in Davis, 
California.  It started with buying one house, now, almost all of the homes 
on the street (2 streets) are operated as a co-housing group, and even some 
homes across the street and near by are part of the group.

Most of the back yard fences have been taken down, and the yards are common 
space, to a point.  One house serves as the common house.  This was a 
moderate/poor section of Davis (tho nothing is really poor in Davis) and has 
evolved over the years.

for more information on self-help housing, you can check our web page at  I believe the N street co-house have a web page also.

mark in Calif.

>From: Todd & Betsy <tobe [at]>
>Reply-To: tobe [at]
>To: Multiple recipients of list <cohousing-l [at]>
>Subject: co-hou-du-sac?
>Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 22:01:30 -0500
>Warning: this is a long entry)
>I occasionally check out the Cohousing Networks website to see what?s
>new, invariably stopping in at Fred?s ?retro? section to remind myself
>that cohousing is a state of mind not just new bricks and sticks built
>on huge construction loans and sold with the risky promise of something
>Put on your brainstorming caps for a moment while I pop up an
>alternative development model.
>Perhaps a standard suburban developer could be persuaded to accept an
>option from a group in which the group would have the right to buy up a
>cul-du-sac of say 24 lots.  The option would last for maybe 6 months to
>a year and during that time would be marketed in the realm of cohousing.
>Core members would buy lots at the circle end of the cul-du-sac and
>would market lots beginning at that end and moving toward the connecting
>street.  People who purchase would own a lot, but with the purchase they
>also get the opportunity to build a possible cohousing neighborhood.
>They would sign an agreement The arrangement with the developer and the
>authorities permitting the development would be that as our group
>reaches certain benchmarks in number of lots sold, we could exercise
>variations in designs.
>Ideally we would get commitments on all the lots and would convert the
>lots closest to the connecting street into parking.  The next few lots
>could be common buildings and denser forms of housing units, gardens and
>such.  The lots closer to the end would be the family size 2,3 and 4
>bedroom types.  The street could become a plaza with pavers and just
>enough room for an emergency vehicle to serpentine its way to the
>turnaround.  The serpentine would be created by alternating meeting
>nodes, planter boxes, trees and the like on what would have been a wide
>asphalt street and the turnaround might have a large shade tree planted
>in the center.  Or perhaps the entire parcel could be given over to
>single entity ownership (condo, coop, etc.) and design could begin from
>scratch depending on how far you can push the developer and the
>authority having jurisdiction.
>If only half the lots sell, the group could scrape up enough to buy the
>remaining lots and complete the project.  Or, if not enough sell, those
>who have already committed could create their own little enclave trying
>to employ principles pioneered by N-Street and described in Fred?s
>?retro? section.
>There are plenty of problems that come to mind for anyone familiar with
>the development process.  What kind of developer would be willing to
>work with that kind of arrangement ? what would it take to persuade a
>developer.  And the authorities - don?t even get me started.  Normally
>you have to have it all figured out before a plat is approved and
>construction can begin.  Maybe they could live with having three plats
>approved for that one cul-du-sac and the developer and buyers (coho
>group) can determine the final version to be built.
>And how would such a thing be marketed? There are some people out there
>who, if they knew they would at least end up with a very marketable lot
>in a place where they might even want to live, would be willing to make
>the investment with hopes it may become cohousing or something that
>looks like ?retrocoho.?
>Maybe not.  After all, most cohousers are also looking for broader
>community amenities not often found near a suburban development.  But
>there may be circumstances??.
>An advantage might be that a full blown developer gets some allies (like
>Muir Commons) and the group might get some production construction
>savings.  Investors don?t lose everything if no cohousing materializes
>and they may even have the chance to move into a neighborhood with lots
>of people who can think retrocoho.  Sometimes the only land available in
>an area is locked up by developers or people hoping to sell to
>developers.  The larger development would be improved for having
>cohousing amongst it, of course, and some people want to have their
>cohousing well planted among a larger neighborhood to assure a good crop
>of kids to relate to.
>Anyway, just a notion. I?d be grateful for some feedback.
>Todd Derkacz
>Member, Hilltop Cohousing
>San Marcos, Texas

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