Re: Letter to Chuck Durrett re: developer-driven cohousing as an option
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2021 09:10:43 -0700 (PDT)
> On Oct 24, 2021, at 1:26 PM, Steve Welzer <stevenwelzer [at]> wrote:
> I still feel that you treat the “future residents must design it” idea as a
> dogma. Let’s take Altair (which I worked with for two years): It will be 30
> units. Ten or fifteen of the ultimate 30 households will have participated
> in the design charrettes. Fifteen or 20 will move into a cohousing
> community they did not design. It’s a 55+ project. After twenty years only
> two of the people or households will have participated in the design
> charrettes. The other 28 will be grateful that the community got built.

It think this is a good example of what actually happens compared to what we 
think should or does happen. The energy of a few is portrayed as the actions of 
all. It isn’t true that everyone in a successful community has been active in 
the decision-making. Studies of organizations and work in all fields seem to 
come down very close to 20% lead and 80% follow. It’s the 20%, however, that 
makes things happen.

Takoma Village is an odd blend because the developer had the option on the land 
and hired Ann Zabaldo as the local cohousing burning heart to make the 
community happen. He actually had no expectations that she would put enough 
people together for cohousing to occupy the whole plot. He hedged his design 
with one half of the property circling the common house and the the other half 
extending beyond the courtyard as independent homes. 

Whatever has come up here has come up at other cohousing communities — I 
haven’t seen any differences. Good or bad. Good in that we were built much 
faster than many communities.

One reason for the developers to say that the impetus has to come from the 
community is that they have been developing cohousing at a level that keeps 
them poor, so to speak. They don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to 
invest up front in starting a community. Cohousing has “professionals” who help 
others develop. They haven’t been working with the ambition to become big 
developers. Developers who finance part if not all of their own projects have 
amassed those funds by building increasingly larger and more profitable 
buildings. It’s a different world. 

> I wish a cohousing developer would “Get It Built” here in New Jersey and
> finally give me a chance to live in cohousing.

I would venture to say that the housing market is too weak for cohousing. Too 
weak meaning too strong. It costs too much. People who are interested in 
building anything there have to meet the market. They have to build things that 
will pay for the cost of building in an incredibly costly environment. The 
building costs are too high and getting anything built requires decades of 
learning the ins and outs of the construction industry — which is not 
democratic. Plus building regular old apartment buildings is so profitable, why 
bother with people?

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.