self development
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 2004 08:36:21 -0700 (PDT)
>Just had a long talk with a coho developer about the pitfalls of
>self-development of a coho community. She recommended that I ask you all if
>you know of cohos which were self-developed (without a developer) and which
>came in time and on budget.
RoseWind Cohousing in Port Townsend. We are "self developed". From the 
beginning, we knew that we were dependent upon the money and energy which 
showed up, over time, incrementally. We didn't wait till we had 24 
families all committed and paid. We started with 3, 4, then 5, 6, 
families as we bought land, mulled values and site plans, learned what 
we'd need to do to make a Planned Unit Development on city land that was 
already otherwise platted. As additional families committed, we got into 
developing our legal documents, getting things surveyed, and continued 
our planning and groundwork with the City. By using a lot-development 
model, our buy-ins of about $38K went, in about equal thirds, to buying 
all the land (common and home-site), installing the required 
infrastructure (roads, sewer/water, power/phone, drainage, 
emergency-vehicle access, parking), and building the common house. In 
practice, this meant that the first 8 buy-ins funded the land, the next 
8, the infrastructure, and the last 8, the common house. 

Once all our 24 lots were sold, we had all that, plus a great deal of 
experience working together as a group. By that point, we had functioning 
committees and task forces for all the usual stuff, and many of the 
families had already built and moved onto the site: long before the last 
lots were sold, we were already a "built community" in terms of our 

Was it "on time"? We would have been delighted if it hadn't taken so many 
years, but we knew it would. The initial members' kids are now young 
adults, but we have new little kids. We traded time for money: we did not 
have the money for up-front development, either to hire developers, 
architects, landscape architects, cohousing consultants, or to build 
houses first and sell them later. So going the paid-professional route 
was not an option for us. We had time, not money. And the time was 
parcelled around working and raising kids, and being active in other 
organizations. But ultimately, what counts to me is that we HAVE our 

For some, time is vital: they have to move, and want to move into a 
community NOW. Those people have had to wait till our resales. We haven't 
had many, but from time to time there are resales, and we welcome 
inquiries and familiarization visits. For those of us in the earlier 
phases of the development, we lived elsewhere in town till our RW home 
was built, or some commuted to meetings from the nearest big city, till 
they eventually moved here and built. 

Budget? We have in fact stuck close to our original development budget. 
We priced our lots to add up to what we estimated would be enough for the 
land, infrastructure, and common house. We overlooked a few factors (as 
do most professional developers, I'd say): we didn't build in enough 
slack to cover the taxes we'd pay on our unsold lots over some years, and 
didn't account for the inflation factor in building cost for the common 
house. We still got a wonderful common house, but pruned out having a 
separate room for an office, a guest room w shower, and a few other 
items. We have funded the development of a dining patio from donations. 

Obviously, someone who makes their living as a developer or consultant 
will tell you that's the way to go. If you have more money than time, you 
can surely benefit. (Don't count on professionals being on time and on 
budget, unless you build in time and money for quite a bit of 
unforeseens.) But it's not the only way to get there. 

At RoseWind, we have a beautiful and very functional common house. This 
week it has seen three community meals (a potluck, a team-cooked meal, 
and a collaborative stir-fry), a video screening, a communication 
workshop, a discussion circle, and considerable use by visiting 
grandchildren and family members. Our vegetable garden is thriving. We 
have a first-class children's playset/swingset about to be installed. 

We not only self developed, we designed and built our common house, with 
selective professional input, and keep our assessments down by doing much 
of our own maintenance, mowing, cleaning, etc. Our $800 a year assessment 
also includes quite a lot which goes into reserves for future repairs and 
replacements and other contingencies. 

Professional development has benefits, for sure, but it's not the only 

Lynn Nadeau
RoseWind Cohousing
EMAIL   inquiry.welcome [at]
Port Townsend WA
where we have one potential resale, a large very-custom home, 4 BR, with 
many environmental upgrades: great for a family with kids (there's a very 
large space on the top floor that can be a playroom, or home office/craft 

  • self development Lynn Nadeau, February 25 2002
    • self development Lynn Nadeau, July 24 2004

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