Re: Building own house in cohousing
From: Alex Kent (
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 11:30:57 -0700 (PDT)
I knew there had to have been a reason why I did not unsubscribe from the
cohousing list!  

I have been interested in cohousing for nearly 20 years, but have not made
the plunge.  Various reasons: Marital incompatibility of goals and something
like a morbid fear of meetings (which could possibly be cured through a 12
step approach....). 

And one other thing: I have dreamed all my life of building my house with my
own hands, and my read of cohousing is that this imperative may be
fundamentally incompatible with prevailing cohousing models. I have heard
(from one of the leading architects of cohousing communities in this
country), that while it may be perfectly fine for members of cohousing
communities to install their own kitchen cabinets, put up interior trim, and
the like, it is virtually unheard of for community members to build their
own homes from the foundation up. I am not entirely sure why this is, but I
suspect that the division of labor between house-building contractors and
members of communities is one of the things that sets cohousing apart from
the jerry-built hippie communes of the 1960s.

Matthew's post piques my curiosity because he would like to live in
community AND he wants to build his own shelter.

I live in Amherst, Massachusetts, home to several cohousing communities, and
I would like to create a small community of self-built homes in this area.
I'm a self-employed translator (Japanese-English), partnered with a
wonderful woman who works in human services. We are a blended family with
three children between us. The younger two of the three children are both
14-year old girls, and I am not sure how they would take to living in
community.  The eldest, a boy, is finishing college and not living at home.

Although I spend my days glued to this computer, churning out reams of
turgid translated technical prose, my real love is building, and I have good
skills in this area. I've built everything from add-on rooms to wheelchair
ramps, decks, cabinets, bookcases, various pieces of furniture, a kayak, and
now I am building a diatonic marimba based on East African models for one of
my daughters (the percussionist). 

I am fully confident that I can build a house, although at age 50, my best
housebuilding days are possibly behind me. Nevertheless, I try to stay in
shape, peddle my bicycle, and even manage to get down to the gym from time
to time.

So this is a call not only to Matthew, but to others who are interested in
building a community in New England with their own hands.

Alex Kent
Amherst, MA

-----Original Message-----
From: Matthew Waugh [mailto:mattwaugh34 [at]] 
Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 10:04 AM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: [C-L]_ Building own house in cohousing

My wife and I have been investigating cohousing for several years (mostly in
New England, but also in North Carolina and New York) and we have mostly
found that it is out of our price range.  When we visited Two Echo Cohousing
one member told us about First Day Cottages,  We
would really like to build a first day cottage at cohousing, particularly in
New England, as it is near family, but we have not found a place where that
is possible.  The only place it looks like it could have been possible is
the Eco-Village at Ithaca in their second village but that was built when we
were just starting the process of looking into cohousing.

Does anyone have any ideas on how this could be possible?  I think that
building your own affordable home with a small footprint would fit very well
with cohousing.  I am unwilling to give up the idea of living in community
as I think it is essential for my family and I very much want my son to grow
up with it.  Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.  This is very important
to us.

Thank you,
Matt Waugh
mattwaugh34 [at]

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