Where to start in developing a community
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 12:53:35 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jun 4, 2020, at 2:36 PM, Ron Ingram <ingramr88 [at] gmail.com> wrote:

> All I need is a building and some instructions. If I have to be the only
> one nailing and hammering and planting flowers in yards then so be it. I
> know others will come. I know others who might be willing to join me if
> they knew that helping to renovate and rehabit a home for someone else
> meant that others would do the same for them 

There are flyers and other information on the Cohousing.org website to help 
newly forming groups.

What often happens is that you choose a temporary name — easier to do publicity 
with a name. Develop a description of what you are trying to develop. A key 
will be sticking to the low cost requirement. I’m a firm believer, based on 
experience, that price has to be a clear boundary. Don’t be seduced by people 
who really want middle class housing and are romantic about subsidizing you. 
Dependence on those with more resources whether it is the government or 
wealthier people doesn’t bring long-term independence.

Make a few flyers — they don’t have to be on large paper. Print 4 on one page. 
And post them around the area in which you think there are people who might be 
interested — it may not be the same area where you can find property but you 
have to start somewhere.  The kinds of organizations I know of that have 
responded were coops, Unitarian Churches, home-schoolers. Others on the list 
will know more.

Start an email list or use the Sustainable Cohousing list for contacts and 
discussion. Linking to a larger list of people with the same goals — low cost 
housing — gives you more support and more information.

The advantage of setting up a means of contact is that it becomes a link 
between people. Since this is housing, it needs to be done with boots on the 
ground. While people from other locations might move to the project and support 
it from a distance, you need people to begin forming a community from day one. 
This will bring you support and information and links.

Look for links. Every person will know someone. Once you have a concept of what 
you want to do, network. Talk to people in housing agencies to get information. 
They will know what is happening where and who to contact. It will be a number 
of seemingly unfruitful conversations but it will give you practice presenting 
your project.

Get in touch with other cohousing groups in the area. They know people. And can 
mentor you with knowledge of local resources.

I worked with a group for many years that tried to save a 1923 theater next to 
our community in DC. The most helpful person we found was someone who had 
started a cooperative non-profit neighborhood ceramics studio. They sent us to 
the vice president of a bank who specialized in non-profit development. We 
needed 2 million dollars, at least. He gave us leads and financial options 
because he know what a lot of other non-profit and historic preservation groups 
had done. The best lead was to a commercial real estate broker who had been in 
business forever and knew everyone. He led us to a lawyer with a major law firm 
(major as in major across the country) who worked with us pro bono for 5-6 
years. One person led to another. They led us to an architect who specialized 
in historic renovations. From there to non-profit historic theater organization 
that gave us all kinds of leads. In a few months we had a professional team of 
advisors that gave us credibility.

We didn’t get the theater because the owner refused to sell no matter what we 
did, but it is a good lesson in how to build credibility. Most importantly it 
got us connections with people that other city agencies and financial 
institutions knew and trusted. We had credible support when none of us had any 
resources at all, although one person had deep experience with historic 
renovation legislation.

Research options. What kinds of cohousing projects now exist? How does the 
adult dorm concept work? Start with the seemingly most doable. Getting started 
is the hardest part (except for all the other parts). 

Sharon Villines
sustainablecohousing [at] groups.io
To subscribe:
sustainablecohousing+subscribe [at] groups.io

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