Re: Low cost housing
From: Brian Bartholomew (
Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 13:45:12 -0700 (PDT)
> So what happened? Are you still planning a CoHo project?

Here's the end of the zoning story: We had land offered to us on
unbelievable terms by neighbors with compatible interests.  The land
was zoned right, in a fantastic location for commuting, large enough,
pretty, and one edge abutted a dead-end street with a sewer connection
down the middle of it.  Even with the city-required PUD overhead, we
still could have made our $125K buy-in target if we could build the
house portion for $40K.  Even this could be met by SIP-panel Katrina
cottages.  It was not all of what we wanted, but the math worked and
the city requirements were satisfied.

The final outcome?  The INTERNAL zoning of the coho, which was
entirely within our control, decided they would not tolerate "Katrina
cottages" next to their bigger houses.  The objection was, 'I'm not
investing $XXXK over YY years to live next to a Katrina cottage.'
Raising the house price to satisfy appearance demands exceeded too
many people's budgets.  Dead end.  If the PUD overhead hadn't existed
and could be spent on house instead, I believe we would have built.

The subgroup that wanted to self-build looked for opportunities to do
that.  But, it decided that planning to build something that carefully
didn't fall under any of the more intensive zoning categories was only
one withheld permit, fine, or correction order away from a Catch-22
that would financially devastate everyone.

Speaking only for myself, I still appreciate the sales pitch that
originally attracted me to cohousing: shared cooking and eating of
meals in a group kitchen, neighbors you know who will watch out for
you, shared enjoyment of a larger greenspace than we could afford
individually, voluntary agreements between unanimous parties.

With the current economic mess pushing people to behave more cost-
efficiently, there may be a better chance of building a coho now than
before.  Some neighboring counties have a zoning environment which is
closer to 'don't ask, don't tell'.  Opportunities for lower-impact
cooperative living seem to have opened which didn't exist before.


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