RE: RE: Retrofit Cohousing
From: Mike Baldwin (
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2002 14:41:01 -0600 (MDT)
Fred, et al, just to let you know. I am a community development director for
a small, nonprofit housing initiative in North Saint Louis.  We have been
renting with an option-to-buy tax credit financed, low to mod rental units
to a group known as the Dorothy Day Co-housing Community.  They are all
low-mod income and conveniently, the shelter from which they all came and at
which they now volunteer is nearby and serves as a "common house". The
apartments are rehabbed 100+ year old buildings and are on a "scattered
site" within walking distance of each other (two -three blocks). So far the
community is sticking together, though they formed only 1 and half years ago
and began their rent to own contract with us a little over a year ago.
There are some in the community who are feeling a need for their own house.
We are debating accommodating that need by building some new housing on the
same block.  My question(s): Is it considered cohousing when individuals own
their own house, or is cohousing more precisely what they have been
practicing the past year by sharing housing, common house, appliances,
automobiles etc.  In their case, I don't want to discourage the experiment
of shared housing by providing stand alone single family units for some
while others continue to share.  Am I off track. Does anyone with experience
in this have a phone number to talk more informally?  Thanks for your time.

Mike Baldwin
Pruitt-Igoe Development Corp.
1829-A N. 18th Street
St. Louis, MO 63106
314 974 7432 home
314 621 0079 office

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l-admin [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l-admin [at]]On Behalf Of Fred H Olson
Sent: Monday, July 08, 2002 10:25 AM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: [C-L]_RE: RetroFit Cohousing

On Sun, 7 Jul 2002, Chris "Kif" Scheuer wrote:

> I visited CommunityNow! in Rochester NY not too long ago, who sort of
> this and it would be interesting to talk with them. It appeared at the
> of our visit that they were struggling to maintain membership and

Kif, thank you for the update on CommunityNow! even if it is rather
discouraging.  I would like to hear from someone in CommunityNow!
directly also.  But indeed it is much harder to write bad news.

I have been an advocate of Retrofit Cohousing for some time.  I use that
term (which I attribute to Kevin Wolf at N Street) to mean:

 Retrofit Cohousing is developed in existing housing by changing the way
 the occupants of that housing relate - usually with new occupants moving
 in to participate in the community.  Retrofiting the social relations and
 not necessarily the structures.
 ( See my little Retrofit Cohousing web page at:  )
 ( )

But it has been somewhat discouraging.  There have been two promising
Retrofit Cohousing communities that have apparently / effectively
disbanded. In those, personal disagreements were major factors. The
community we were trying to build here in North Minneapolis (sometimes
called "Homewood Cohousing") has pretty much stalled. Factors in our case
are rising housing prices, few houses available, resulting small numbers
of people, busy schedules. Our efforts have resulted in some good things
in our pleasant neighborhood so I dont consider it a failed effort - just
not cohousing (yet).

Kevin's point that Retrofit Cohousing is a long term (20 years)  project
leads to the question of whether setbacks in the three communites I
mentioned are setbacks which will be overcome or not.  Who decides when a
community is defunct (for inclusing in the database for example) when
things look grim?  In the case of the communities with personal
disagreements does one take the opinion of those who have left of those
who remain?  What if only one household remains?  Sticky problem.

Despite these problems I continue to think that the retrofit approach has


> Chris Scheuer
> ----------------------------------o--------------------------------
> Master of Science Program         *              Research Assistant
> Doctoral Program in Architecture  o  Center for Sustainable Systems
> University of Michigan            *               430 E. University
> cscheuer [at]                o       Ann Arbor, MI  48109-1115
>                                   *
>                                   o             ph:    734-936-2542
>                                   *             fax:   734-647-5841
> ----------------------------------o--------------------------------

Fred H. Olson  Minneapolis,MN 55411   (near north Mpls)
fholson [at] 612-588-9532 (7am-10pm Cent time)
List manager of Cohousing-L & Nbhd-tc  Ham radio:WB0YQM
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