Re: Close to Construction
From: Dick Margulis (
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2017 08:28:55 -0800 (PST)
On 1/31/2017 11:06 AM, Sharon Villines wrote:

When I visited the site last spring, I was told about a financial consultant who 
helped you find subsidized housing programs, etc, to finance the project. I’ve 
mentioned it here but I wonder if you could post more details so other groups might 
find such a person.

Here's the story, Sharon.

Back in 2007, when we were just a circle of people who had come together because each of us had independently learned about cohousing and one person had thought to put up a listing on, we were, like so many other nascent groups, just having pointless discussion meetings every month, talking about how wonderful it would be, etc.

Periodically, we would invite someone to speak with the group, someone that one or another knew of who might have insight of knowledge we could use. One of those speakers, a person active in assisted housing issues, listened to what we were trying to do and said, "You know what you people need? You need a housing consultant." Pretty much in unison, we said, "What's a housing consultant?" She scribbled a list of three names and told us to interview them and hire one. Which we did.

So, what's a housing consultant?

It's someone who typically works with sponsors (churches, foundations, other nonprofits) who want to build housing but don't know all the ins and outs of how to accomplish that. The board comes up with the overall program and the funds, and the consultant manages the details.

In our case, the consultant we selected, David Berto (his company is Housing Enterprises, Inc., in Enfield, Connecticut,, has always specialized in affordable housing. He quickly got our agreement to include an affordable component in our project, and based on that, he came on board.

Other groups in Connecticut, a decade or more before we started, had tried and failed to get cohousing going. One of those groups still meets for monthly dinners, having long ago given up on building anything. But what those groups did was the typical scenario of inviting a cohousing expert to do a weekend workshop and then thinking they could do the rest themselves. What we've learned is that it's hard to do the rest yourselves if you don't have any real experience with this kind of development and if there are no models in your state that you can leverage.

With Dave's help, we built an instrument for evaluating parcels of land and negotiated the purchase of the piece we now own; we screened architects and selected one; we found a sympathetic lawyer and accountant; we fought and won our zoning battle (couldn't have done so without the affordable component); we obtained a $2.6 million state grant to subsidize the affordable homes; we screened construction managers and selected one; we screened banks and selected one.

Every one of those steps had complexities and subtleties (and politics and who-you-know) none of us would ever have dreamed of. But now they're done.

I will be signing the lender's proposal in the next day or two, and we're moving forward on all fronts.


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