honeymoons and outreach
From: Lynn Nadeau (welcomeolympus.net)
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2008 09:58:39 -0700 (PDT)

Craig, I think you requested this off list. I'm fine with it being published or archived, if appropriate.
Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing

1. What is your community's name and move-in date? Did you build out your
residences all at once or in phases?
RoseWind Cohousing in Port Townsend is a "lot-development" model. We added members over time, with a buy-in fee that covered (in about equal thirds) all the land, both lots and commons; required infrastructure (it was pasture land, platted City land, so we had to do a Planned Unit Development process); and our Common House. This buy in, in the early '90s, was around $36K. After members joined, it was then also incremental that home building happened, as - eventually - we got the PUDA in 1993 and could build on the newly-defined lots, then as members' timing and budgets put them in building mode.

2. Have you regularly done outreach since move-in? Have you had a need to steadily recruited new members, or has this been a relatively rare event?
In our development phases, we had a clear need for outreach, and hosted get togethers, did PR at cohousing fairs, etc. We needed to continually add new members, whether immediately or whenever they were ready. Once we were all built out, and had only resales available, we moved to a different phase. In this mode, we try to keep visible in cohousing circles -- like posting on this list, contributing to coho publications, attending communities events; we have a web site and respond to inquiries (ranging from "I want to buy a house there" to "We are wondering if when we retire in 5 years we'd like cohousing"), including encouraging and hosting visits. When resales happen, or seem imminent, we become more active: first, members are notified, then those currently inquiring, then cohousing-L and those who have visited or inquired in the past year or so. Paid advertising is up to the seller: a current resale is advertising on FIC and Coho USA. Because we are in a town of 8000, not an urban area, and with limited local jobs, the pool of those seeking to buy homes is limited, and of those also seeking community, even more so. We wish we always had an active waiting list, but unfortunately, when people are house shopping, it's usually for a very specific time frame, which may not match ours. In addition, a consequence of everyone building to their own values and budget, is that our houses are very diverse in size and value, and so buyers also need to want the size and price we have in a resale.

We are vulnerable to having homes bought by those who are only seeking a nice house, not a community. So far, we still have critical mass of those interested in participation, but it's not a given, under the circumstances. All the more reason we wish we had buyers ready to go, whenever. But it rarely happens.

3. What do you think about this "honeymoon effect" idea - a turning inward after move-in? Is your perception that it helps describe your community and
its history?
In almost 20 years, our population and the nature of the work needing to be done have changed a lot. At the beginning, we were all working very hard on the project. Now, a handful of worker bees, and another handful who participate some, carry the work forward. About a third of our 24 families do little or nothing, beyond the legal minimum of paying assessments and following rules. Resales have brought in folks with different values, too. At this point, there are some who see community less as a model of social alternatives, and more as a way to share goodies (eg a digital projector, power mowers, etc) and mutual social support. I personally would like it if we were more idealistic.

In this, I have a different experience from Sharon V, who describes more homogeneity later along. Our need to attract buyers, and a general attitude of openness and dislike for "rules" led to what I consider, in hindsight, not enough definition early on of what we were about.

Not being a co-op, we have no overt control over who buys in. And obviously those who are moving out include those who are least inclined to care about how great the community aspect is, as well as some who, while they may like the community, may need speedy cash to fund their next home, medical situation, or whatever is prompting their move.

On the other hand, those who do check us out, for potential buy in, see that we have well-attended delicious meals 2-3 times a week, a well-kept and equipped common house, friendly social support, beautiful landscape including a big community garden area with abundant fruits and vegetables and flowers.

PS- We have a spacious, sun-filled house for resale right now! See 

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