Re: "Neighborhood" Cohousing or "Retrofit" Cohousing
From: Kathryn McCamant (
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2013 09:31:51 -0800 (PST)
Interesting discussion.

I don't think Neighborhood Cohousing makes sense to distinguish "retrofit"
from other newly built cohousing neighborhoods. As others have mentioned,
they are all based creating a more collaborative neighborhood. I have been
trying to change my own language to say cohousing neighborhoods generally,
instead of cohousing communities... I think the term neighborhood makes it
clearer that people have individual homes, as opposed to a shared house or

Not sure what the best term is... We are use to having to define cohousing
when we use it. I expect that just about any term we use to distinguish
retrofit cohousing will also need ongoing defining for many people. I've
been using the term retrofit cohousing for decades and find it works fine,
or at least as well as any term for a concept most people still can't


Kathryn McCamant, President, Architect
CoHousing Partners, LLC
241 Commercial Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
T.530.478.1970  C.916.798.4755

On 12/8/13 8:36 AM, "Kevin Wolf" <kevin [at]> wrote:

>Thanks Ann and Diana for chiming in.
>It seems most build choosing is a subset of the neighborhood and has a
>pretty specific footprint that sometimes grows by adding neighboring
>but most often it doesn't.  One real world experience from N Street
>Cohousing is that if we had thought of ourselves as a community that could
>incorporated non-contiguous houses in the neighborhood from the start, we
>would have grown faster and not lost as many members who left the
>because there weren't any contiguous houses.  Having the goal be part of
>the name has its benefits.
>The names "Evolving Cohousing" and "Organic Cohousing" have advantages as
>well and could work as well.  I don't think Infiltrated Cohousing or "In
>Place Cohousing" work as they don't express as clearly the vision or the
>method by which this type of cohousing differs from from "built"
>On Sun, Dec 8, 2013 at 2:33 PM, Ann Zabaldo <zabaldo [at]> wrote:
>> Hi Kevin!
>> I don't know what the term should be to describe cohousing that starts
>> with an existing neighborhood but I welcome the discussion.  I, too,
>> often found "retrofit" to be a confusing term.
>> Thanks for bringing this discussion to the list.
>> Best --
>> Ann Zabaldo
>> Takoma Village Cohousing
>> Washington, DC
>> Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
>> Falls Church VA
>> 703-688-2646
>> On Dec 8, 2013, at 3:57 AM, Kevin Wolf wrote:
>> >
>> > Hi Cohousing Activists,
>> >
>> > I just finished speaking at the UK Cohousing Network's special
>> > on Retrofit Cohousing.  They invited me because N Street Cohousing is
>> > premier example of how existing homes can be converted over time into
>> > vibrant cohousing community.  We have grown to 20+ houses and around
>> > adults in the 25 years we have considered ourselves a cohousing
>> community.
>> >
>> > One thing that came out of this excellent event is the awareness that
>> there
>> > are problems with the word "retrofit" to describe what N Street and
>> > similar types of communities are doing.  We found out that people did
>> > attend because they thought it was about retrofiting existing
>> > into built choosing, similar to Doyle Street and Swans Market
>> > here in CA.
>> >
>> > The word retrofit also doesn't describe the many ways in which "non
>> built"
>> > cohousing can develop and evolve.  "Built" cohousing is defined as all
>> the
>> > units coming on line more or less at the same time as one project.
>> >
>> > One of the speakers at the UK conference described her group's effort
>> > buy homes in an inexpensive neighbourhood near Cardiff and evolve that
>> into
>> > cohousing in the years to come. Few of the members would have
>> > homes. They'd like to buy a home near the entrance to the
>> and
>> > convert it into a common house with possible use as a cafe during the
>> > to help pay for it. It might also be rented out for non members to
>>use as
>> > well.  It is a different strategy to achieve the same goals as all of
>> > want to achieve in our cohousing communities.  In my opinion, the
>> we
>> > are pursuing are more important than the specific means by which we
>> achieve
>> > them, and the core elements of a cohousing community are a common
>> and
>> > the gifting of our time cooking meals for each other.
>> >
>> > So after the conference a few of us met for dinner and came up with a
>> > proposed word to describe the type of cohousing the grows over time
>> is
>> > not built all at once - Neighborhood Cohousing.    We considered words
>> like
>> > Evolving Cohousing or   Starting Small Cohousing but like the
>> of
>> > the word Neighborhood and all the potential in it.
>> >
>> > By the way, N Street member houses have been spreading out over our
>> > neighborhood with five of them no longer being contiguous and one of
>> > at least a block away, and a long time Friend of the Community (one of
>> our
>> > FOCers) lives a few blocks away.
>> >
>> > We'd like to spark a discussion with the U.S cohousing community on
>> whether
>> > we should change from the word Retrofit to Neighborhood or another
>> to
>> > define N Street types of cohousing from communities as being different
>> from
>> > cohousing communities that are built all at once from retrofitted old
>> > buildings.
>> >
>> > Thank you for weighing in.
>> >
>> > Kevin
>> > N Street Cohousing co-founder
>> > _________________________________________________________________
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>> >
>> >
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