Re: question about cohousing communities that have not made it
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 2021 09:59:12 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jul 29, 2021, at 7:57 PM, T G <triciamill9 [at]> wrote:
> 64% failure rate, wow. Does anyone know how long most people keep trying
> before they decide to throw in the towel? I mean, you can only put in so
> much money before you decide to cut your losses.....Where is the breaking
> point?

In the earliest periods the issue isn’t usually about money but about the time 
it takes to develop a strong core group, learn what needs to be done, and make 
a plan to do it. The number of groups that fail are probably still at this 

Groups have lost a lot of money trying to develop cohousing — just as everyone 
else who has tried to develop a real estate dependent project. Real estate is 

Eventually, it means finding households who can afford to pay for the units a 
group plans. That is a dynamic process of we have these people who can afford 
this — is that what we can build. And the “we” is important. Cohousing is a 
cooperative process of people working together by sharing abilities. 

More and more mainstream developers are becoming more interested in cohousing. 
The actual process is not so different than developing any other 
multi-household property. The client may not even be less complicated than 
other clients. So more developers can be enticed but it does help to have a 
developer. I don’t have the numbers but I can’t imagine that a developer 
doesn’t save groups money. It has to cost more to build 35 units when you start 
from knowing nothing and have to get up to speed from ground zero than if you 
build 35 units with someone who has done it before.

Groups also fall apart when so much time has gone by that the core people are 
no longer able to continue focusing on cohousing. People who want their 
children to start school in a place where they will stay until high school will 
want to plant themselves in such a school district and not wait until the group 
has land. People also leave the area. The estimate at one point was that in the 
US, one-third of all households move every year. So there is a normal flow of 
people whose lives are changing unrelated to cohousing.

Imagine yourself sitting in a room with 10 people — some friends and some 
strangers. Now begin discussing locations and architectural design preferences. 
You have a pile of papers with numbers that tell you what it will take 
financially to do this or that. How long do you think that group would stay 
together? What compromises would need to be made? How far are you willing to go 
in changing your living arrangements to allow everyone in the group to stay?

The failure rate is high because the idea is compelling and so many people 
think they want to live in cohousing. That doesn’t mean the 64% were all very 
realistic in their plans. Or that they got far enough to have plans. 

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

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