Re: Truly affordable cohousing
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Sat, 10 May 2008 10:33:23 -0700 (PDT)
Marganne asked about ideas about affordable housing.

There three models in which cohousing has been created. The most common is
what I term, the large project model, where the entire project is designed
and built out all at once. This model generally requires millions of dollars
to pull off and usually has a standardized group design.

Another model is the retrofit model, where people buy existing homes or
structures and then convert them into a more community centered
organization. This still can be pretty expensive but can cost less overall
than the project model.

Yet another model is the lot development model. In this model, land is
divided up into lots, the infrastructure is put in such as parking, roads,
and utilities and then individuals design and build their own homes. Costs
depend upon how much of the work is done by members of the community and
home costs then can vary greatly depending upon whether you want a small
self built cob structure, or a more typical 3 bedroom house.  

I live in a 21 year old lot development community and housing costs range
from $40,000 to over $700,000.  The lowest cost structures are hand built
from recycled materials and are simply the cost of the lot and small
materials costs.  The most expensive structure is a custom designer
timberframe top of the line house.  All within the same community, each
according to the desire of the lot owner.  

There are many difficulties in any of the models, if real estate development
was easy and cheap, everyone would be doing it. Once when I sat next to a
banker on a flight I described cohousing as a group of relative strangers
who join together often for several years who work together to design and
build their own neighborhoods based upon principles of cooperation and
knowing each other in a social context. He told me that such a thing was
impossible and could NEVER be done, heck most married couples often can't
build a house together without ending up in divorce court.  He was stunned
when I pulled out the cohousing book and showed him example after example. 

It is possible, but it sure aint easy. And sometimes it takes a bit of good

Rob Sandelin
17 year resident of
Sharingwood Community
Snohomish County, WA

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