Re: affordable cohousing
From: Rod Lambert (
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2009 07:40:50 -0700 (PDT)
The 2nd Neighborhood at EcoVillage at Ithaca NY was heavily customized and built with permits as well although not strictly a lot development model. It is a coop legal model built with a construction management method rather then contracts which allowed for customization and owner-built homes - we have 2 strawbale houses for instance). Allowing appropriate owner participation can be a great affordability strategy. People were allowed to build their "dream home" or customize starter designs which I had generated as long as they fit within mutually agreed on parameters, especially size, green materials and tech.

The First nbhd (FRoG) was built with the conventional method (pick from 4 models - don't make changes or it will cost ya ) which provides a good comparison of methods. While some people spent significantly more then they intended (mostly due to "feature creep" - discipline is a prerogative if affordability is the _primary_ goal), everyone got good value for their money according to the bank appraiser. Comparing to FRoG: the most expensive house is in SoNG and the least expensive, the largest house and the smallest. Cost per sf: equal to or better then FRoG for 80% of the homes. The appraiser said that while he categorized the overall state of houses in FRoG as "satisfactory" he appraised those in SoNG as "good" - with "excellent" being generally reserved for big estate homes. I prefer to just say that the neighborhoods are very different not superior or inferior which is the case. We were also able to get a HUD grant for 5 lucky households of ~18k to help with downpayments.

I recommend the method to other groups for which I have consulted as it still allows the "call-me-when-it's-done" contract method for an individual or a cluster of homes but gives freedom to those who desire it, broadening the market base. We were having difficulty getting going on the 2nd nbhd until I suggested letting people have much more control of what got built. Several people from the first nbhd switched to the 2nd when the option became available. Another coho group, which I designed for, was able to build a 1240sf home for 150k total, including common costs, using this method even though they did no "sweat equity". Much more could be said but I agree with Rob S. that, while it may not be for every group, it is a method that should be considered.

Rod Lambert
Whole Community Design
EcoVillage at Ithaca. NY

Date: Sun, 27 Sep 2009 20:43:22 -0700
From: "Rob Sandelin" <floriferous [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ affordable cohousing
To: "'Cohousing-L'" <cohousing-l [at]>
Message-ID: <BLU0-SMTP82A1B89F07E188456D1B79A3D60 [at] phx.gbl>
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Yes all were permitted. In Snohomish County you can use recycled building
materials and there is no minimum size to a self built/financed residence,
it's the banks who make you build a house worth 2.5 times your lot.  Also
any living unit without running water under 200 square feet does not require
a permit.

-----Original Message-----
From: Grace Kim [mailto:grace [at]] Sent: Sunday, September 27, 2009 8:22 PM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: [C-L]_ affordable cohousing

Thanks Rob!
It's good to have the additional context.
Although I too wonder about the code implications of self built
projects- were they engineered or permitted?

And I encourage others to share similarly.  Also I'd encourage everyone to
complete the survey even if you didn't end up with affordable units in the

grace h. kim
schemata workshop
(sent via mobile messaging)
> From: "Rob Sandelin" <floriferous [at]
> I filled out the survey but it didn't really cover how we operate and > since there is strong bias against lot development in cohousing > circles I thought it was at least worth mentioning that lot > development allows people to build their own homes, using recycled > free materials, and alternative designs at very low cost. We have two > residences which are very small and cost less than $40,000 including > the cost of the lot. We have another which is owner built which cost > less than $120,000 to build. Of course there are some hugely expensive > homes built here as well but we do have a good mix, and some of the > larger homes host our 10 rental apartments which also provide > opportunities for non-owners to live here.
> Rob Sandelin
> Out in the woods of Sharingwood
> Snohomish County, WA

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