RE: RetroFit Cohousing -- Wolf
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2002 08:16:03 -0600 (MDT)
Kevin Wolf, N Street Cohousing  <kjwolf [at]>
is the author of the message below. 
It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]> 
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At 08:17 PM 7/7/2002 -0400, Chris Scheuer wrote:

>  The common house was I think a strong attraction
>initially, but without the critical mass of houses connected to create safe
>play spaces and the urban oasis they had desired it didn't have enough
>staying power, so in a sense they had much of the
>organizational/administrative burdens of cohousing, without the spatial

Hi all

N Street Cohousing started by connecting one house at a time. Our common
house came along when six houses were connected in 1989.  We invited
potential future renter/buyers to participate in our meals and processes
but the key was having houses that conne cted.  In retrospect, we wish we
had the vision of 20 houses and had been more aggressive at getting the
non-contiguous houses bought/rented before the fence could come down.  We
would have grown faster and houses would have been brought in at lower
costs than when they were finally bought, sometimes ten years later. 

My recommendation to people interested in starting retrofit cohousing is
to find a block with houses that have their kitchen/living rooms facing
the backyards, and that are predominantly rentals.  Our block was 75%
rental housing. This allowed us to take over leases quickly. We added
about a house a year for 17 years.  We are at 17 units now and expect to
grow to 25 units over the next 10 years.  We expect most of these to come
from purchasing rental homes and coverting them to two units on the lot by
adding "granny" flats.

I think San Mateo and On Going Concerns, two of the other older retrofit
cohousing communities, have a similar experience. Get the units connected
so that those people who live there have common spaces in which to visit,
dig gardens, share tools and more. 

The common house is important but ours didn't come on line until after 3
years of living in community. 

I believe retrofit cohousing requires patience and a long view. Think 20
years or longer and most houses on a block will change hands.  Add the
spice of offering over market for the housing, and savings in real estate
commissions and a number of owners c an be enticed to sell.  In CA, one
knows that house values will always increase as long as our population
increases, as projected for the next 50 years. States without a similar
growth projection can't be assured that an over market price will be
compensa ted in future rising housing prices. 


Kevin Wolf
N Street Cohousing Community member
724 N St, Davis, CA  95616
kjwolf [at]

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consensus decision making, visit

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