Re: A strategy for affordability
From: Marganne Meyer (
Date: Sat, 22 May 2010 01:35:19 -0700 (PDT)

I invite you to join the Low-Cost Community Housing (LCCH) Google group mailing list. There you will get more responses to your statements about how to modify a building code that restricts you from building what you want to do under many jurisdictions.

It also might be helpful if you search through the archives of the Coho list for comments made here about building restrictions. I admit there are some places where planners have been more proactive in anticipating what shape zoning will take to adjust to the new reality of lower costs and smaller homes.

There always is filing for an exception to the zoning, but that also costs money and often eats into your timing, which costs more money. Each time this sort of thing delays a regular cohousing project, it runs the risk of losing project members who don't have much flexibility in their budgets.

We've all mentioned that it would be nice if there were one place where we could do a search for the minimum square foot requirement so we could identify locations that already can accommodate cohousing or a small community. Of course, you always can build out in areas that aren't very populated and zoning requirements, if any, aren't enforced.

There is some great information on the Small Home Society web site that describes costs of construction. It would give you a better idea why a small house often is much less expensive than a larger one. In some small homes, a 'regular' sink won't even fit.

The national cohousing board mentioned on this list recently that they wanted to put together a model for more affordable cohousing projects. I don't know what is happening with this plan. There is a big difference between 'affordable' and low-cost. Please join us on the LCCH list where we talk about these things in detail.

At 1:03 AM -0400 5/22/10, Greg Nelson wrote:
So in any case, there are *some* places where the zoning restrictions
aren't the main cost obstacle.

One painful truth about the construction process is that there are
some costs that are fixed, and many things that do not go down as fast
as square footage.

I still think that offering smaller and more affordable homes should
be explicit goals of the cohousing movement.  I just would rather
avoid running off again in the direction that says "it's all about
there being too many laws" rather than a balanced approach that fights
the most important battles for affordability in each community.

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