Re: Truly affordable cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 11 May 2008 17:40:00 -0700 (PDT)
On May 11, 2008, at 1:49 PM, Marganne wrote:

I feel totally unable to spearhead something like this because of
lack of time and energy due to my disability and lack of knowledge.
I'm unable to absorb new information very well.

The first thing, I think, is to take it slow so you don't get overwhelmed.

You are very good with email so I would start that way. Set up an email list so you have a place for people to congregate. A group in Colorado recently started with three couples, one in Virginia, one in California, and one in Colorado. I think they all had roots in Colorado, but in any event they knew that was where they wanted to be.

Talk with or email the various cohousing developers/project managers. One of them might be interested in this kind of project because at this point it is unique. At least they would be able to tell you what you need to do in order to obtain their help -- how many households do you need? Do they know of any supports for building small house / low cost cohousing? They are used to doing large projects that cost millions of dollars over all and this one won't, but it should be easier and faster to build as well -- less work.

Contact the small house builders, the prefab people, etc., to see if any of them are intrigued with the idea. What can they do for you?

I was on the small house list for a while and one of the discussions was where you can build small houses and what the zoning problems are. You might get some ideas there.

Move as quickly as possible to discussing specific numbers. With prefabs you can do a price range for the building fairly quickly. Then estimate a price for installing plumbing and electricity -- the infrastructure that preceeds building. (Probably the hardest to estimate because it varies from city to country, etc.)

Then land costs. This is variable depending on where you are, of course. Just study a range.

Much of this can be done on line. There are now real estate sites where land is being sold. Get a square foot cost.

Have a vision, a plan, so people can clearly understand what you are talking about. It will change but you need to start somewhere. Have an upper limit for the costs so the project doesn't run away with "rich people."

Just like your shock and withdrawal from this list when people talk about "affordable" as $250,000, other people are turned off as well. So you need to start talking in other terms. When people hear other numbers, maybe they will surface. One reason that the larger projects get built is that those with more resources have more resources. You will just have to be more creative.

Not to introduce national politics here but Obama was recently described as "closer to the people" than Hillary because he only earned $1.5 M last year and HIllary earned something like $8 M (figures not exact). It's all relative.

Attracting people has been best done with flyers in the places you go, on the email lists you are on. Locally is the best place to start because you need other people to help you and people are more available if they don't have to move out of state, although some people will.

That's a long list but with email and web searching, you can get the preliminary info, talk vision and prices, and see what happens. I hope you do continue to discuss the possibilities here because the list is a wonderful resource.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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