Leaping off the cliff - a development story
From: Robin Allison (ecohousingxtra.co.nz)
Date: Sat, 30 Dec 2000 18:41:05 -0700 (MST)
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Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood, in Auckland, New Zealand, is now under =
construction!  As the first cohousing community in NZ, it has taken 6 =
long years of preparation, belief and persistence, and after a =
frantically busy year, New Year's Eve feels like a good time to reflect =
on the journey and tell you a little of our story.

At the time of the Cohousing Conference last year in Amherst, which I =
attended (we were then known as Waitakere Eco-Neighbourhood Cohousing =
Project), we had initial plans for our 32 house community on a 4 acre =
organic orchard on the western edge of Auckland. It has taken a year =
since then to finalise plans and set things up to the point where we =
could begin construction. And it's been a tough year for anyone in the =
development business.

During 2000 the NZ economy has been in a trough. The $NZ dropped in =
value, building materials started rising in price for the first time in =
10 years, the price of diesel doubled, interest rates started rising, =
and house prices dropped. Our valuations (appraisals) came in very low =
at only 66% of house costs - another consequence of being the first =
community of this nature in NZ, and the appraisers' reluctance to add =
value for eco and healthy building features. Some members found their =
existing houses were no longer worth what they thought, and very sadly =
dropped out of the project.  =20

We decided mid-year that with only 15 units sold, we could only proceed =
by building in stages - the first stage of 17 units and most of the =
drives, paths and services, and the second stage of the remaining 15 =
units and the common house. This was a tough decision in that we would =
have liked to build the common house first, but economically we just =
couldn't make it work. We do have an old house on the site (my current =
home!) which will become our temporary common house until we can build =
Stage II.

The construction start date of 1st November approached - we didn't have =
Building Consent, fixed prices for construction, or a construction loan, =
and only 13 of 17 houses in Stage I were sold. The group made a =
courageous and unanimous decision at a memorable meeting - we would =
proceed anyway, committing the remainder of our funds to get the =
builders started, with sufficient to pay them until Christmas.

It felt like leaping off a cliff together, trusting that things would =
come together in time for us to fly and not crash. No one else was going =
to believe in this project unless we believed in it ourselves.

In order for us to get a construction loan, the banks required 100% =
pre-sales. One member had the equity to sign up for a second unit (as a =
temporary measure until a real buyer came along). Her parents showed =
incredible support for the project by putting their names to another two =
units. On the same day that these agreements were signed, a public =
funding body called Infrastructure Auckland awarded us a $93,000 grant =
to assist with our innovative stormwater systems - the Universe was =
providing!! This grant means we can now install the full permeable =
paving, swales and pond system, some of which had been trimmed from our =
very stressed budget.

Since then we have got Building Consent, our site works and house prices =
have moved within budget, we got our construction loan offer 4 days =
before Christmas, and even the $$NZ is heading back up!!

The site is looking amazing. We have a wonderful curving drive that =
swings around the old house, under pear trees and around the walnut tree =
at the back. 5 house floor slabs are down, and the builders start =
ramming the earth walls next week.

We are gathering tonight to reflect on our personal and group =
transitions over the last year, amidst the transition of our orchard =
into the village of Earthsong. It's an awesome journey.

Thanks to every one of you who have walked similar paths and shared your =
stories on this list. All courage, fulfilment and laughter for the year =
ahead!

Robin Allison

Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood
P.O. Box 70001, Ranui,
Auckland, New Zealand
www.ecohousing.pl.net


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<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood, in =
Auckland, New=20
Zealand,&nbsp;is now under&nbsp;construction!&nbsp; As the first =
cohousing=20
community in NZ, it has&nbsp;taken&nbsp;6 long years of preparation, =
belief and=20
persistence, and after a frantically busy year, New Year's Eve feels =
like a good=20
time to&nbsp;reflect on the journey and tell you a little of our=20
story.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>At the time of the Cohousing Conference =
last year=20
in Amherst, which I attended (we were then known as Waitakere =
Eco-Neighbourhood=20
Cohousing Project), we had initial plans for our 32 house community on a =
4 acre=20
organic orchard on the western edge of Auckland. It has taken a year =
since then=20
to finalise plans and set things up to the point where we could begin=20
construction. And it's been a&nbsp;tough year for anyone in the =
development=20
business.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>During 2000 the NZ economy has been in =
a trough.=20
The $NZ dropped in value, building materials started rising&nbsp;in =
price for=20
the first time in 10 years,&nbsp;the price of diesel doubled, interest =
rates=20
started rising, and house prices dropped. Our valuations (appraisals) =
came in=20
very low at only 66% of house costs - another consequence of being the =
first=20
community of this nature in NZ, and the appraisers' reluctance to add =
value for=20
eco and healthy building features. Some members found their existing =
houses were=20
no longer worth what they thought,&nbsp;and very&nbsp;sadly dropped out =
of the=20
project. &nbsp;&nbsp;</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>We decided mid-year that with =
only&nbsp;15 units=20
sold, we could only proceed by building in stages - the first stage of =
17 units=20
and most of the drives, paths and services, and the second stage of the=20
remaining 15 units and the common house. This was a tough decision in =
that we=20
would have liked to build the common house first, but economically we =
just=20
couldn't make it work. We do have an old house on the site (my current =
home!)=20
which will become our temporary common house until we can build Stage=20
II.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>The construction start date of 1st =
November=20
approached - we didn't have Building Consent, fixed prices for =
construction, or=20
a&nbsp;construction loan, and only 13 of 17 houses&nbsp;in Stage I were=20
sold.&nbsp;The group made a courageous and unanimous&nbsp;decision at a=20
memorable meeting - we would proceed anyway, committing the remainder of =
our=20
funds to&nbsp;get the builders started,&nbsp;with sufficient to pay them =
until=20
Christmas.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>It felt like leaping off a cliff =
together, trusting=20
that things would come together in time for us to fly and not crash. No =
one else=20
was going to believe in this project unless we believed in it=20
ourselves.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>In order for us to get&nbsp;a =
construction loan,=20
the banks required 100% pre-sales. One member had the equity to sign up =
for a=20
second unit (as a temporary measure until a real buyer came along). Her =
parents=20
showed incredible support for the project by putting&nbsp;their names to =
another=20
two units. On the&nbsp;same day that&nbsp;these agreements were signed, =
a public=20
funding body called Infrastructure Auckland awarded us a $93,000 grant =
to assist=20
with our innovative stormwater systems - the Universe was providing!! =
This grant=20
means we can now&nbsp;install the full permeable paving, swales and pond =
system,=20
some of which had been trimmed from our very stressed =
budget.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Since then we have got Building =
Consent, our site=20
works and house prices have moved within budget, we got our construction =
loan=20
offer 4 days before Christmas, and even the $$NZ is heading back=20
up!!</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>The site is looking amazing. We have a =
wonderful=20
curving drive that swings around the old house, under pear trees and =
around the=20
walnut tree at the back. 5 house floor slabs are down, and the builders =
start=20
ramming the earth walls next week.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>We are gathering tonight to reflect on =
our personal=20
and group transitions over the last year, amidst the transition of our =
orchard=20
into the village of Earthsong. It's an awesome journey.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Thanks to every one of you who have =
walked similar=20
paths and shared your stories on this list.&nbsp;All courage, fulfilment =
and=20
laughter for the year ahead!</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Robin Allison</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood<BR>P.O. Box =
70001,=20
Ranui,<BR>Auckland, New Zealand<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.ecohousing.pl.net";>www.ecohousing.pl.net</A></FONT></D=
IV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV></BODY></HTML>

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