Re: so is it cohousing?
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 04:54:20 -0800 (PST)
Grace Kim <grace [at]>
is the author of the message below.
It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
after resoring subject line.
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

I am writing in response to Rob Sandelin's comments:

 One of the interesting dynamics of developer driven community is when the
people actually get into their homes, will they have the commitment and
bonds to be a community?  Community is not made by a building, it is a
deliberate relationship that you enter into willingly and with purpose.
Without that relationship, all the common elements in the world will not
make a community happen. There are not a lot of developer driven
communities yet, so it will be interesting to evaluate them in say 5 years
after people move in, and see what happened. 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.

I have to admit that a few years ago I would have shared Rob's

However, I've visited more than 40 communities in Denmark, Pacific NW,
and North Carolina since then and have realized that there are many
benefits to developer led communities.  In fact, several of the
communities started in Denmark over 30 years ago were led by developers
and are still vibrant and cohesive in their intention for community.

The reality is that there are many communities that have seen
significant turnover since their founding/move-in.  And often the
families that move into a newly completed community do not include the
original founding members.  The bonds created in the community over time
create the cohesion necessary for a community to thrive over the long

I think the beauty of developer driven cohousing is that it puts the
difficult job of dealing with financing, designing, construction into
the hands of those who are accustomed to dealing with these issues.
I've heard from countless groups that saw many members leave during the
pre-construction phases over differences of how financing was effecting
their ability to purchase a home in the community or how the group went
about hiring (or not hiring) professionals.  Having a developer (third
party) handle the finances and construction helps the community focus on
building their community - getting their policies, rituals, etc in place
for the day they move in.

How many communities have we seen posting to this list about organize
meals, laundry, dues, etc. after they've moved in?  When a developer is
handling the mundane aspects of building the physical structure, the
community can focus on the infrastructure to make their daily lives look
more like their ideal of why they chose cohousing.  Obviously, this
implies that the families moving in are actively meeting and developing
their community during pre-construction.  I don't think this model works
if everyone just buys a house from a developer, moves in, and then is
expected to be a community the next day (the cottage housing communities
designed by Ross Chapin & developed by the Cottage Company in the
Pacific Northwest are a prime example of that).

As I said, I was not a believer of this idea a few years ago and
visiting Bellingham Cohousing (developed by Wonderland Hill and designed
by McCamant & Durrett) changed my mind.  This is a tight-knit community
that was caring and compassionate, and much more cohesive than some of
the more "traditional" cohousing communities that were self-developed.

grace h. kim, aia
principal schemata workshop
159 western ave west, #483
seattle, wa 98119

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