Re: so is it cohousing?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 04:46:48 -0800 (PST)

On Feb 8, 2007, at 12:02 AM, Rob Sandelin wrote:

. Intention is really important, and I have
wondered how a developer would create intention if faced with a conflict between intention and sales. If sales are lagging, would the developer hold
on to the intention, or would they bale.

One issue is how much assuming all the risk of real estate development actually contributes to building community. The early groups were taking all the risk AND had to have enough money to pay for the development themselves. An experienced developer brings to the equation a relationship with a bank (or banks) that ensures a construction loan and mortgages. They also have working relationships with architects and lawyers and city zoning offices and permit granters.

A second issue is how early does community development have to start? It takes at least two years to build a multifamily complex. If the community development begins with the first households, how much longer would one want to require? When Don Tucker developed Takoma Village (DC) and Eastern Village (MD/DC) he hired Ann Zabaldo to market and do community development. You can't get more cohousing than that! She helped the groups from day one to write bylaws, make design decisions, plan units, etc. She came to every meeting. In both instances, the communities were involved in all the decisions they would have made alone if they had had no developer. With a developer it just got done faster and more economically because while mistakes were made, in all fairness, they would have been worse if people had been trying to work alone. The developer did make many decisions himself but there is no guarantee that after many months of wrangling, the group would not have made the same decisions when they faced reality. It is also true that because the group was involved the design decisions were better than the ones the developer wanted to make. It was a synergistic relationship.

The developer still has to have a construction loan and to do that he or she still has to have 70-75% of the families on board and signing contracts. And to get out of the project the final units have to be sold, but that is true of a community doing their own development as well. How many communities have taken any buyer they could find because those final 2 units were sitting there eating away their own household incomes?

Another interesting issue is who is attracted to building their own homes? Are these the only people who should live in cohousing? Early cohousing attracted a lot of Yankee-Dos -- good old Yankee spirit to get it done themselves, and only themselves. Doing it yourself is not always the best way to get things done, particularly if you have no experience in real estate financing or construction.

Obviously time will tell but the arguments are interesting.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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