Re: Diversity and Lot Development Model
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 11:58:01 -0600 (MDT)
I read here about the problems of group-created housing not being diverse 
enough to accomodate the actual spectrum of "simplicity", compactness, 
family size, special needs for certain facilities. 

A lot development model like ours solves such conflicts, but is not 
without its drawbacks. 

Everyone builds to their own timetable, values, budget, and desires. So 
one house here is an 800 sq ft one-bedroom cottage with little storage, 
and another is 2800 sq ft with a woodworking shop, darkroom, built-in 
apartment, etc. One house is built with stained plywood siding, another 
with sheet-metal siding, for economy, while others invested in cedar, 
Hardiplank, or stucco.  The home next door to me has solar roof panels, a 
composting toilet, Asko and Vestfrost appliances, and solid-wood 
cabinetry. Many in our project might wish for such things, but can't 
afford them. 

Two small houses were built by Habitat for Humanity. One low-income 
member got a double-wide-type ready-made home and had it deposited on her 
lot. Those homes don't look out of place, considering we have a lot of 
variety anyway. 

Having our houses all different lets us blend in to the surrounding town 
without looking like a "development", for what that's worth. And some 
people think it's attractive or interesting that each house is unique. 
>From my window I can see a dome, a strawbale, a couple of RastraBlock, a 
pre-fab, and a bunch of wood-framed homes. 

People were able to build on their own timetable, sooner or later than 

This also eliminates the time, energy, and expense of designing and 
building a whole project full of houses. The project receives the money 
for the home site+common stuff, and the group can focus on site design, 
common house design, etc. More than enough group process to get to know 
each other!

People build exactly what they want, and so they can get very attached to 
that building. To the point that even if the community doesn't match 
their needs anymore, they are reluctant to leave. In the one case where 
we had a member family deeply at odds with the group, they even proposed 
that their lot "secede" from the project, rather than consider moving 
away. I'm sure having just put 2 years into building their dream home was 
a big factor. 

Resales to community-seekers are harder. One person's simplicity is too 
stark or small for another person. One person's personalized design 
leaves another cold. That great big house with the shop and darkroom and 
apartment and radiant oak floors may be beautifully built and worth every 
penny they'd ask for it, but how many people want just those features AND 
have the money to pay for them AND want cohousing AND are ready to move 
just when that house is for sale? The pool of potential buyers gets 
smaller. We have two extraordinary houses for sale, but they are quite 
custom and need someone who wants and can afford the features. 

Conversely, resales of custom homes are MORE likely to appeal to the 
general clientele of realtors. So if a home is listed with a broker, 
there is more risk that someone might buy it because it's way cool, and 
not because it's part of a community. Maybe even in spite of the fact 
that it comes with a community. My fear. (This fear also motivates me to 
spend days at a time offering hospitality and encouragement to 
community-seekers who are even vaguely considering such homes, which 
consumes my time and energy.) 

In construction, you lose whatever efficiencies of scale you'd have by 
buying appliances by the truckload, having the insulation company come 
once instead of 24 times, putting in shared systems for heating, 
intranet, etc. You can presumably get more for your money, as a group.

Single family homes become the norm. This takes up, and requires,  more 
space than row housing or apartment style housing. 

It doesn't match, if you find matching more aesthetic. Certainly there is 
a pleasant village feel that is added to by seeing rows of similar homes. 

Maybe similar housing can contribute to a sense of egalitarianism. Sounds 
like sometimes it just creates underlying frustrations that a family has 
to live in something different than they would  have chosen.  But I don't 
sense any significance at RoseWind to the diversity of income and 
expenditures, on houses or other stuff. In matters of community process, 
we are all equal. If someone funds something specific via donation, it is 
only in a case where the community has decided that the purchase is 
wanted by everyone. With our sliding-scale, confidential, 
assessment-pledging system, those who pitch in more than an equal-share 
amount are contributing to the whole budget, not a pet project, anyway.

Oh dear, this has gotten long, but maybe it will be useful some day to 
people considering the pros and cons of the lot development model. 

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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