Re: Moving, affordability, outreach
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 8 Aug 2013 13:57:58 -0700 (PDT)
On Aug 7, 2013, at 7:50 AM, johnrichmond50 <johnrichmond50 [at]> 

> On a related note, how does one attract people to a forming community? We're 
> getting good people with our outreach efforts,  but not enough of them.

Another thing to do is find a real estate developer. Cohousing is real estate 
development. It took cohousing years to accept that and to both accept and be 
able to attract developers. Developers are experts on all sorts of things,  for 
one thing what adds expense to building, what property is not worth the cost, 

Developers often hear about property that is available before anyone else. They 
network. Business is a very difficult business, so to speak. Rumors can kill a 
business faster than anything. So if a building is for sale, for example, the 
owner may not want it to be public knowledge until the deal is done, or about 
done. So developers have contacts and information you don't have.

Developers also have money. They can put upfront money in to obtain an option 
on the land and arrange a construction loan. The buyers, your members, will 
only have to put in a few thousand refundable dollars to hold contracts on 
their units to convince the bank that they are serious buyers. The bank will 
want contracts on 70-75% of the units to be built. 

Just the permitting can cost tens of thousands of dollars. All that has to be 
done before a bank will touch you. Architectural plans have to be done and 
engineering studies. All these things will attract interested members, too. 
They can see progress and trust that experts are in charge.

Before cohousing began working with developers, it took 5-10 years to get a 
community developed. In one worst case, by the time the community was built and 
everyone moved in, only one person was left from the initial group. Now it 
takes 2-3 years.

Most people can only hang on for the development period for 2 years. Then they 
need to get on with their lives, get their kids in school, and make a 
commitment somewhere else. The people who are most attracted will be those who 
want to make a change -- a larger unit, have children, move closer to work, get 
a new job, adopt children, get married, move in together, bring a parent to 
live with them. Those who are in transition will be open to cohousing, but can 
only defer their housing and relocation needs for so long.

Development is very intense and requires a lot of time. It builds deep 
relationships and bonds the community but anything you can do to make it 
easier, you should do.

And my biggest reminder, the first members will put in more time over the 
course of the development but they shouldn't have to put in more money and 
should be rewarded for that time. Keep records of everything you send so new 
membership fees bring people up to equal equity. If each of 10 members have 
spent $500 a piece on publicity, etc, new members should be required to pay 
$500 so they have equal monetary investment. Prices on units should reflect 
discounts for members on a graduated scale so those who come later and have not 
put in any time or effort, pay more. 

Priority of choice of units should also follow join dates. Members should know 
where they are on the list. This will also encourage people to join faster and 
not wait around until the work is done.

Partner with a developer. There are many resources for developer and other 
developers and banks for them to talk to if they are hesitant to work with you.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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