Strategies for LowCost Cohousing [was coho/ecovillage land in Washington state
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 2021 14:37:44 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jul 5, 2021, at 1:49 AM, Chuck Harrison <cfharr [at]> wrote:
> I just visited some friends on this property that is available immediately.
> 20 acres of wonderful possibilities!

"$675K pre-listing price" — For 20 acres with livable buildings onsite, this 
looks like a wonderful opportunity — if you have a group of people organized 
for action. Luck like this is not rare — but you have to have the resources 
ready to jump in order to take advantage of it.

In thinking about how to support/encourage cohousers organize low-cost 
cohousing communities, it seems to come down on all sides as 

1. Must have organized core group ready to ramp up fast when an opportunity 
presents itself.

There are millions of low cost housing construction materials and techniques—I 
knew there must be a lot but the range is truly astonishing. And with the web, 
there are ample images of attractive uses available. The problem: gaining 
permission to design a community using them.

A successful application for a zoning variance will be hyper-local. Even if 
miraculously there should be a nation-wide prohibition of single-family, 
minimum-lot-size zoning, it would be necessary to understand what this means 
locally and how to frame your arguments for a specific piece of land. And this 
will require a core group ready to create or take advantage of an opportunity. 

2. Core group members must educate themselves about construction materials and 
technologies, local zoning, and a range of supportive local contacts and 

It is amazingly easy to attend local agency hearings, kibitz with clerks in 
offices, figure out who the friendly supporters are likely to be by listening 
in civic meetings, talk to local construction companies about who can or wants 
to construct what. 

There are so many people who recognize the need for low-cost homes that beating 
that drum doesn’t help. It’s stating the obvious. There are even strong 
believers in the shortcomings of focusing housing aid on subsidized rentals. 
The most glaring definition of housing insecurity is literally having no right 
to a home. No place to live that is unconditionally available, safe, and dry. 

3. Learn how to act as a group and practice organizing actions and sharing 

An urban planner who led an effort to save a whole neighborhood from becoming a 
series of cloverleaf intersections of 4-8 lane highways said the most important 
thing they did without realizing it at the time was naming themselves. Agreeing 
to become a group and to be visible. The simple fact that they had a name made 
the city sit up and listen at a time when they hardly knew each other and had 
no resources much less a plan. 

If you have your agreements worked out — not all of them, just the ones you 
need right now — then everyone can act quickly because they know they are in 

In this respect, right now order a copy of Ted Rau’s Who Decides Who Decides?

This is a step by step guide to forming a group in 3 meetings. How to go from a 
mission to a governance structure and action plan in 3 meetings. It’s an 
introduction to sociocracy (dynamic governance) complete with various guides to 
meeting structure, etc. It's unique value is that Ted has sensitively itemized 
a path of take-no-prisoners steps to get somewhere in each meeting. How to 
deflect noise and stay focused. To be up front about "this is what we are doing 
and if you want to do something else, start a meeting down the street.”

And a new resource for thinking about "missing middle housing.” How 
multi-household buildings can fit into neighborhoods of one household buildings 
— and create walkable communities. Excellent thinking and pictures.

Voted one of Planetizen's Top Urban Planning Websites of 2019.

Sharon Villines, Editor & Publisher
Affordable Housing means 30% of household income
Cohousing means self-developed, self-governed, self-managed

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