Re: Cohousing Pioneers: Second Round
From: Fred-List manager (
Date: Wed, 25 Dec 2013 05:46:07 -0800 (PST)
Gary Storm gary [at]
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
due to html only post.
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Thanks, Sharon, for the feedback. I think you are right that a major challenge
to developing cohousing in retirement destinations is that planning would have
to be done at a distance: participants could not easily gather regularly with an
architect and other future residents to collaborate in critical decision making.
However, such long distance planning might be more feasible in situations like
mine (i.e., at "The Woodland Community"/Lake of the Ozarks) because the site is
established and detailed contour maps and photos of different portions of the
property could easily be shared. While one or more initial meeting on-site would
be essential, much of the follow-up planning could be accomplished
electronically, especially if it involved a relatively small number initial
participants who would set the pattern for future decisions.
While I would like to hear others' thoughts on the feasibility of long distance
planning, I would most like get readers' responses to my suggestion that in
today's struggling real estate market, it might make sense to ask individuals
who pioneered the cohousing movement, especially those who are now retired or
have no business ties to particular geographic areas, to relocate from
established communities in order to spearhead development of new cohousing
communities in other locations, especially in attractive vacation/retirement
destinations (see my earlier post). If 5-10 such individuals with considerable
experience in cohousing were to purchase lots and build homes in The Woodland
Community, they would provide just the critical infusion of capital required to
establish my planned unit development (PUD) permanently as well as the
intelligence/wisdom required to reach out to a mix of local residents and future
retirees from almost anywhere to expand the new cohousing community.

Put somewhat more generally, what do readers of the listserv think about
encouraging experienced cohousing leaders to take on a "second round" of
pioneering work? Do you think it makes sense in today's difficult financial
market to use both the financial capital and the intelligence of these early
pioneers to "seed" a number of new cohousing communities? Are there any of you
who fit this description who would consider playing such a role?

A variant on this proposal might be to have current cohousers from a variety of
locations (early pioneers or not) consider investing in "second homes" in new
cohousing communities located in vacation/retirement destinations (like Lake of
the Ozarks) with the idea of renting them full- or part-time until they
need/want to use them as vacation or retirement destinations themselves. To
promote community and shared governance in such new cohousing communities, both
absentee owners/landlords and their full-time renters could participate in
community decision making along side other permanent cohousing residents
recruited from the surrounding geographic area.

Still another possibility is that in vacation/retirement settings like mine, it
may make most sense to identify seniors drawn to the philosophy of cohousing who
are willing to give up participation in planning in order to move into
well-designed communities that meet their needs. The sense of community and
mutual support they are seeking could be established through their participation
in decision making "after" they move into the community. With sufficient numbers
of prospective senior cohousers identified in advance, their commitment to
purchase or rent homes in a new community could be the source of financing
needed to begin construction.

In short, what I am searching for is new ways to finance and guide development
of new cohousing communities in this difficult financial climate, especially in
vacation/retirement settings like my own. Any suggestions readers may have will
be appreciated. Thanks.

Gary Storm
See website at

> "Is it feasible to develop a series of
> cohousing communities in attractive retirement destinations where
> there are not sufficient numbers of locally employed
> individuals/families to develop such communities on their own?"

The retirement destination is difficult because it means developing from a
distance. But If you put up a website, I also recommend putting up a lot of
information about the Ozarks because people don't know very much about how
beautiful it is. I was born in Oklahoma and the Ozarks was a vacation place. it
was where people went on honeymoons. A friend also settled there when she got a
huge contract to do Christmas ornaments and couldn't find enough crafts people
to make the quantity she needed. She did in Ozark Springs. So talk it up.

In the meantime it might be helpful to contact Narara Ecovillage. Lyndall Parris
has been working on this concept for years -- an Ecovillage composed of several
smaller cohousing communities. An ecovillage needs a critical mass to be truly
an ecological system (500 people?) but that is far too many for a cohousing
community. I haven't been in touch with the details lately but I think it would
be a good resource even though it is in Australia.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." Albert

> includes space for several
> clusters of closely placed residential units (up to 109 total); a
> greenhouse/community garden and seasonal farmers market complex; and a
> mix of private, nonprofit and public facilities/programs dedicated to
> environmental, horticultural, health-fitness, arts and educational
> purposes--see website at

Sorry, I now see you did include a link to your lovely website. I was so focuses
on getting the Australian community link to you I didn't notice it.

Target price range or price ranges from Zillow or such would also be helpful.
The descriptions are wonderful but to people from either of the coasts or from
large cities, it sounds very expensive. The reality is that money matters and
people want to know if they can afford this before they get interested. It's
self protection. Put target price ranges up front.

And my personal reaction after looking at site plans for cohousing communities
is that it would be much more interesting with open space to one side or on the
perimeter than in the middle. That is how conventional communities are arranged
to give the feeling of privacy. The point of cohousing architecture is that it
is designed to foster and facilitate interaction and familiarity. There are many
cohousing communities that have lots of woodland so they can give you ideas on
how to manage this -- what works and what doesn't.

If you envisioned 3 or 4 community clusters with open space between the
clusters, people could have the often strived for ideal of the front part of the
unit looking out on the community and the back looking out on a private area. It
seems like you have plenty of room to do this.

Right now, it looks like a fabulous idea, but doesn't feel like cohousing.
Participating in the conversation here would provide more information both on
ideas for developing a community and what people would be attracted to in that

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Gary A. Storm
The Woodland Community
Sunrise Beach, MO
Gary [at]
+ 1 (217) 367-0879

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