Re: Balance Between Economic Viability and Vital community
From: Laura Fitch (
Date: Mon, 31 May 2010 11:09:49 -0700 (PDT)

If you think that you can market 37 units in  your area, I think you will
enjoy certain benefits from being big:
- you can more easily afford the land and common house, so your homes can be
more affordable
- you will have more folks to do the work over time:  there will be times
when members of your future community cannot fully participate in whatever
work program you set up (illness, job change, outside pressures like aging
parents, birth, etc., etc.).  If your group is small, you will tend to
notice these fluctuations more.
- with a larger community I think you are more likely to have enough
turn-over to continue to get some young families.  Otherwise - you are quite
likely to become a NORC (naturally occurring retirement community) in about
15 years!

I can think of several communities that have more than 30 units that seem to
be very successful in the long term:  Pioneer Valley Cohousing (my home) has
32 and about 10 associate member households in the immediate community, as
well as 5 or so rental units on site.  Cambridge Cohousing has 41 units, and
they've always struck me as very strong.  A few communities that I know
(with numbers under 25 households) seem to struggle with maintaining things
like regular common meals. 

Laura Fitch, AIA, LEED AP
Kraus-Fitch Architects, Inc.
110 Pulpit Hill Rd.
Amherst, MA  01002

lfitch [at]

-----Original Message-----
From: Lamaia Hoffmann [mailto:lamaiahoffmann [at]] 
Sent: Sunday, May 30, 2010 2:27 AM
To: cohousing-L [at]
Subject: [C-L]_ Balance Between Economic Viability and Vital community


Folsom Ecohousing is facing similar financial constraints as many forming
groups in this real estate climate- we have to keep unit prices down so they
are salable.  Obviously, more units divides the common costs between more
people, so individual unit price is lower, but from reading the archives,
that can come at a social cost. 

We are currently considering 37 condo style units with 2 probable adjunct
houses that would be on lots we'd sell off, but whose residents could well
want to participate in the community to some level (current members have
shown interest in the lots).  According to the textbook definitions I've
read, 37 + potentially 2 more is too big.  I've looked through the archives
and gleaned what I could, but most of the intense discussions seem to have
been around 2000/2001 and there is a lot of cohousing experience in the US
since then.  I am interested in people's experience with how larger sizes
has effected their community for better or worse.  Also, if we need to have
a fairly high number of units, what can we do to help ameliorate the
detrimental effects of a larger community?

I've read that splitting it into 2 smaller communities could be better, but
any ideas on how to pay for the entire land and other prep work up front?
It seems very difficult.

We are located in Folsom, a suburb of Sacramento, CA and the site is just a
couple of blocks from Light Rail, a historic downtown and outdoor

Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives!


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