Re: Getting started guide / FAQ?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2015 07:59:55 -0800 (PST)
At Takoma Village the very first formal meeting of committed people was October 
of 1998 and the first move-ins were November of 2000, and that was with delays 
caused by soil contamination and discovery of more oil and gas storage tanks 
underground than predicted.

it was a huge advantage that the developer already had an option on the land. 
The developer came to Ann Z as the local advocate for cohousing to see if she 
thought a cohousing community would work there. She called a meeting in 1998 
and I think something like 35 people showed up. (Her specialty is marketing.)

The developer hired her to assist in forming the community. We also had a grant 
from HUD to hire an architectural student whose specialty was green 

All those things helped enormously. There were no huge missteps except the 
delays caused by unknown conditions, which are always present.

From participation in other developments, it is is amazing that even the 
permitting was done in that period of time. Permitting can take a long time. An 
experienced, respected developer can speed this process.

Other information gleaned from working with a failed group and a successful 

1. Be very clear with your developer what is your responsibility and what is 
theirs. If you convince them to use green technology with which they are 
unfamiliar and are trusting you, who pays when it doesn't work?

2. If someone in the group has land, be clear from the outset that that  person 
does not have greater control over the community than anyone else. If possible 
do a formal option to purchase, just as you would with any other property. The 
same for anyone who wants to be the architect, etc.

3. Clear communications between the group contact with the developer and the 
committed and potential members. If the backyards were discussed as 10 feet and 
for unpredictable reasons they will now be 9 feet, tell everyone immediately. 
This will drive some people crazy because its so much email, but that is better 
than having them feel cheated or deceived when they move in.

4. If you don't use one of the known cohousing developers, find a developer by 
talking to banks. They know who brings in projects on time and within budget 
and will trust you more if they know the developer.

5. Do not allow customizations -- see the archives on why not.

6. Use professionals. 

7. Use professionals.

8. Use professionals. 

One kind of professional Rocky Corner found was a "housing specialist." He 
helped them with all the upfront stuff like regulations, permitting, government 
subsidies, etc. He knew where the money was and how to get it. And he invested 
in the property. I don't know how you find this kind of person elsewhere but he 
was very helpful to them, particularly with affordable housing.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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