From: Gary Kent (
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 2004 15:36:00 -0700 (PDT)
Hi from Roberts Creek Cohousing (on the west coast of B.C. just north of

I echo Chris ScottHanson's message regarding hiring cohousing
consultants/project management. Here's my take on the three options I see
available to cohousing groups - self development Vs developer Vs.
development consultant.

Our community is in a semi-rural area.  We have thirty one homes clustered
on nine of twenty acres.  We have two duplexes and twenty seven single
family homes ranging in size from 700 sq. ft. to 1450 sq. ft.  We broke
ground with the civil works (roads, sewer, hydro etc., ) in September 03,
the homes were started in Jan. 04, six households are in, seven more this
w/end.  All homes and a 3000 sq. ft common house will be complete by Dec.

Some of the original core group spent time visiting and researching other
cohousing communities in N. America and even one in New Zealand.  We also
attended cohousing conferences, read everything we could get our hands on
and signed up to the coho list.  It became clear to some of us early on that
if we wanted to be living in a coho community sooner rather than later (we
were hoping to be in within five years), not burn ourselves out, reduce the
financial risk  and still have some sanity left to enjoy life we needed to
hire a Cohousing Development Consultant.

We were extremely fortunate in that there were three other coho communities
within the lower mainland and that there was a consultant who had worked
with two of those communities and was in the process of managing another
coho community that she was moving in to.

Our working relationship with our consultant, Ronaye Matthew of CDC,
started in July 2000 when she and her business partner, at the time, (Bob
Mann) undertook a feasibility study for us.  In October 2001 we signed a
Project Management contract with Ronaye.

Our fee schedule with Ronaye is based on a $ amount per built square foot
(inc. the common house).  With a bottom line $ amount and a specified time
period.  We pay a percentage of the total contract value every month based
on the phases of development (subdivision, public hearings, zoning, contract
tenders, civil works started etc., ).  Ronaye's background is in real
estate, development and cohousing (a rare combination).

Our group (with Ronaye's management) raised the funds ($70,000 CND) to
option the property through the core members.  Early group pioneers cashed
retirement savings, investments and mortgaged the equity in their homes to
raise the initial
capital.  Because of Ronaye's track record and relationship with the bank we
were able to get a mortgage ($350,000 CND)to purchase the land.

As the project became more and more real others joined and because of the
confidence in our project management (and the core team of 'worker bees')
new members dug deep in their pockets to raise the equity (2.5 million CND
$'s) that the bank required for the construction loan (approx. 4.5 million).

I'm painting a pretty rosy picture here, however I assure you that during
the four and a half years of development we have also had huge challenges to
overcome that forged strong bonds among the group members.  I.e. neighbours
withdrawing the only access to the twenty acres within a month of the option
deadline and with $70,000 already on deposit, discovering a bald eagle's
nest (protected by every agency known to man)  in a fir tree smack in the
middle of the prime building site,  struggles within the core group
including around hiring project management ("couldn't we hire a local real
estate sales person to manage the project" - or  "couldn't Helen be project
management, she's only got two kids and is only going to university this
year")  and many, many more '%$#@*# learning opportunities'.

So, from my experience I would say that hiring a project manager (preferably
not from within the group - that's another story) is the way to go, if that
option is available to you.  Many coho members are income earning
professionals and have some access to cash.  Our group is probably pretty
average for a coho group and members invested what ever they could from
$10,000 to $250,000 from those with deeper pockets.  This may sound riskier
than using the developers cash, however as we have heard from the Florida
group developers are also a risk.  I felt that with a project manager to
push and prod the group and the members participating in the decisions
through a solid committee structure we actually had less risk because as
Chris says "Control goes with ownership of the land."

If we are going to continue to grow this amazing community revolution we
will need many more folks like Ronaye, Chris the Cohousing Company, Ann
Zabaldo and others.  I would like to see more of the professional training
essential to successful project management offered at cohousing and
intentional community conferences.  Who knows perhaps we'll host a coho
conference here in beautiful Roberts Creek sometime in the future and I
promise I'll organize some cohousing management workshops :o)

Regards, Stacia
Stacia Leech
Co Focus, Legal/Finance Cttee.,
Roberts Creek Cohousing

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