Re: Policy Library
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Mon, 3 May 2010 15:33:45 -0700 (PDT)
I want to challenge this assumption:

"One of the things that drives up the costs of building and therefore the
cost of homes is professional fees."

instead, I'd suggest:

"One of the things that may drive up the costs of building and therefore the
cost of homes is professional fees, but bearing these costs can lower the
overall project cost and increase the chance of success"

In retrospect, I sincerely believe that Songaia would have saved money and
gotten a better "product" if we would have had more support from a cohousing
professional in our early, programming phase. We took a LONG time to do our
program documents - it took over a year as we worried and re-worried the
details. We also failed to address some issues, which cost more to "fix"
later when the designs we were provided were not on target.

A very real issue with our group that "did it ourselves" is that we hadn't
yet learned to trust each others' judgments. We were just getting to know
each other and we constantly challenged each others assertions about "good
design." Almost all of us had no design experience, much less experience
designing neighborhoods - something few architects have done.

My belief is that if we had an "expert with a briefcase," they could have
driven to better programming decisions much more quickly. Professionally led
programming could have taken weeks, instead of moving at our slow, slow
pace. The coho-pros I know can complete this type of work over a couple of
weekends. The old adage that "time is money" really does hold once you've
actually started the project. Perhaps the biggest cost is loosing great
potential neighbors, which often slows down the whole project even further,
as you need to cover the mounting costs with a smaller economic base.

To clarify my point of view:

I do NOT question the potential value of open source access to GOOD plans,
or bad plans that have been well-critiqued. This would probably be the most
valuable to design professionals that do not (yet) have much cohousing
experience. Such plans would be the most valuable if they were accompanied
by good notes that explain the decisions that underlie the plans.

I also am NOT saying that groups cannot successfully do a lot of "design"
work that cohousing professionals offer on a for-hire basis. I also hope
that more folks with join the people coming from all over the world to
attend the 2010 National Cohousing Conference, as it will help you get
in-depth information on issues like this.

Craig Ragland

P.S. In way of disclosure, as the Coho/US Exec Dir, I work directly with THE
leading Cohousing Professionals in the United States and do what I can to
help them connect with folks like you. I suspect my point of view is
different from most cohousers, especially those who are justifyable proud of
what they have accomplished. I'm very proud of Songaia - but it took us 10
YEARS to go from concept to reality (despite the fact that we already owned
the property). Most groups do not persevere and complete the cohousing
development process. Diana Leafe Christian, a community consultant, writes
that only 25% of the forming groups make it to a completed community. I
believe that being penny-wise and pound-foolish is a core reason.

I believe that some very telling "precision questions" for forming groups
are (1) how long have you been meeting and (2) what is your current budget
for the next year. Those that have met a while, but do not have a budget
generally don't make it very far along what are extremely difficult and
expensive projects.

On Mon, May 3, 2010 at 1:42 PM, Judith Bush <jbush [at]> wrote:


> Judith Bush, Cobb Hill, Hartland, VT

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