Re: co-op house within cohousing community
From: Beverly Jones Redekop (
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:18:42 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Katie and cohousing-L,

1. I know that many of my neighbours feel this way. Towards the end of our
pre-construction marketing phase, the two "D" (large) units seemed slow to
sell, so the quad proponent suggested turning them into two more quads.
When we have those "remember when" conversations, we all refer to the time
we almost ended up with two more quads as a bullet we are very grateful to
have dodged. Many people still brainstorm about how we can buy out the quad
to renovate it into two regular two-storey townhome units. (Perhaps this
will change given that the quad seems stable and positive for the first or
second time in seven years as of this summer.)

2.  We have had very nice people live there, but they always try to move
out into a regular unit with a private kitchen (or with just one roommate)
as soon as they can. One lovely woman held the quad together for 3 1/2
years, but she has now moved into a regular single-household unit too.
Some of our treasured stable residents had stints in the quad, but their
stints were of a temporary nature.

3.  The quad has high turnover, so it feels transient because the residents
are transient.  I think people prefer to have their own kitchen.  One owner
has had to find renters for her (very nice) suite three or four times this
year.  (I think she has found stable community members now.)  This is
challenging for her, and it is also a bother for the community.  We always
hope that quad renters will integrate into the community, so we still go
through the whole process (tour, social event, business meeting, work
party, explorations meeting, welcome letter, adding to village listserv,
offering dinner participation, orientation to workshare, etc...).  The
process usually feels like a waste of MANY community hours for people who
do not end up connecting and whose stay ends up being of a more temporary
nature.  I don't think that it is something we have brought upon ourselves
by being unwelcoming, as we do do the full process when possible, and we do
always try to invest more to turn the quad around (which perhaps has

4. Cohousing is already complex, and this adds another level of
complexity.  We have had levies to attempt to finish development after our
troubles, and  the discount given by the community to the quad goes
disproportionately to some owners in the quad.  The details don't matter
that much: the bother is that when we try to pass something like a levy, we
have to talk about the situation of one of our 33 homes for a quarter of
the time.

5.  We expected the quad's four bed-sitting suites to accommodate four
singles or couples, but some units are quite large, and many renters sublet
extra bedrooms, so there have often been seven unrelated adults in the quad
using seven or more parking spots.  We imagined four or five people (with
three or four cars) who adored community and couldn't quite afford to be
here.  This is not what usually happened in the first years.

6. Anything that brings additional complexity to the community requires
greater-than-average transparency, which didn't happen.  The 3200 square
foot quad is officially 2500 square feet because its 700 square foot attic
is some clever height (6'11"? or 7'11"?) that makes that space not count as
living space even though people live there.  It was originally owned by
construction workers and managers who paid some of their costs through
sweat equity that was not clearly understood by others. Sweat equity may
well be a good idea, but looking back, it should have been defined much
more clearly and much more publicly.  Local zoning doesn't allow for a
four-suite home unless you get zoning as a rooming house, so the quad was
built as a large single-family home with some clever renovations /
additional walls to split it up after the occupancy permit was granted.  It
should just be done transparently according to local code and zoning even
if it feels slower or more expensive at the time.

7. With a couple of notable exceptions, quad residents have not
participated in workshare or attended community meetings.  I imagine that
this is either because they do not feel connected to the community or
because they already feel busy sharing the responsibilities of the quad
itself: after negotiating the cleaning of their common kitchen, they might
not have bandwidth for contributing to the community common house kitchen.
I think they think they have already done their community time within the
quad itself.

We have had extremely nice people in the quad over the past seven years
among the long list of in-and-out transients whose names we can barely
remember despite investing our orientation hours in them.  I would suggest
that other communities build bachelor suites or tiny one-bedroom units to
accommodate financial diversity instead of a quad.  The other conventional
city floor plan of a unit with two separated master suites would allow two
unrelated adults or couples to share a unit, but it gets too complex after
that, in my view.  Even fighting city hall for permission to have hookups
and spots for a few tiny houses would be simpler than a quad.  If a
community wishes to grant permanent discounts to some homes, make a few
low-income units, designate the threshold for "low income" and keep a
transparent record of the intended permanent discounts (if any) in strata
fees, workshare hours, and levies for those units.

I really like the community-minded people that have come together in the
quad this summer, and I have high hopes that this will be a stable set up
for years to come.  I look forward to being proved wrong about the quad and
moving beyond the hundreds of wasted hours on orienting in-and-out
residents....but I also still recommend that other communities do NOT try
this model.  If I had a time machine, I would gift my community with
greater peace and happiness by preventing stacked units (!!!) and by
preventing the quad.

Lest my detailed report gives an incorrect impression, we have a
high-functioning community full of friendships, shared meals, beautiful
gardens, and dance parties.  My five-year-old can name each of the 61
adults, 41 children, and pets. I'm glad to be here.

Hope this helps,


On Tue, Jul 18, 2017, 3:43 PM Kathryn McCamant <
kmccamant [at]> wrote:

> Beverly,
> I would love to hear more about how the quad has worked out. It seemed
> like a great way to include people that can’t afford to buy into a whole
> unit in a community, further diversifying our communities economically, and
> potentially with younger people or others not ready to purchase.   As I
> understand it, it was a group of cohousing residents and supporters that
> invested in the “quad” and then rent out the suites.
> What were the issues that made you describe it as “mostly been a
> disconnected transient
>     annoyance for the community” ?
> Do you have thoughts on what would make it work better?
> Recommendations for other communities?
> Do you think other residents in Yarrow EV feel the same way?
> We need the feedback to go from theory on what works to what is really
> working out there, so much appreciate hearing more on this.
> Thanks,
> Katie
> --
> Kathryn McCamant, President
> CoHousing Solutions
> Nevada City, CA 95959
> T.530.478.1970 <(530)%20478-1970>  C.916.798.4755 <(916)%20798-4755>
> On 7/18/17, 3:17 PM, "Cohousing-L on behalf of Beverly Jones Redekop"
> < [at] on
> behalf of beverly.jones.redekop [at]> wrote:
>     Groundswell Cohousing at Yarrow Ecovillage has one unit (out of 33)
> that is
>     known as "the quad" because it has four separate bedroom/living
>     room/bathroom suites plus a shared kitchen and living room. The four
> owners
>     (only one lives there) share it through a co-op called Heartspring.
>     It is seven years old, and it has mostly been a disconnected transient
>     annoyance for the community, but it seems to have come into its own
> this
>     summer with involved people who care about participating in the
> community.
>     Who knows? Maybe it can work.
>     On Tue, Jul 18, 2017, 1:20 PM John Carver <jcarver [at]>
> wrote:
> _________________________________________________________________
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