Re: Variations on low cost housing
From: Ann Zabaldo (
Date: Mon, 19 May 2008 05:07:56 -0700 (PDT)
Hi all --

Just commenting on the "building small" idea.  Here at Takoma Village
in high priced Washington, DC we have a mix of units from 630s/f up to
1500 +s/f.   We are a large community -- 43 units -- so we were able
to spread the cost over a number of units.  The price per s/f on a
small unit is higher than on a larger unit because you still have to
have a BA, K, HVAC, etc.  Just to give you some idea of the spread of
the sizes:  3-4 units are 630-650s/f, about 12 units are 750s/f, then
the bulk at 1100-1400 and only three units at or slightly above 1500

At the height of the building boom in 1999-2000 we still had a
construction price of $120 per s/f

Other cost savings for us:  all 43 units are "attached" units -- much
more cost efficient than single family detached homes and we are
DENSELY developed -- 43 units on 1.43 acres.  Saves on more than
square footage costs:  little to mow and landscape (although our
gardening pod gets maximum value out of every sq. inch of soil!)

Price per s/f and the "stand alone" features are two of the challenges
w/ the Katrina units.

I don't think "building small" is the issue.  Is it not more an issue
or issues of other expectations?   "Small" plus a lot of land plus all
high tech amenities plus being in a really good, high-end neighborhood
if for no other reason than the good schools and  libraries high-end
neighborhoods have?    TVC is an "urban edge" development located at
the outer most boundary of DC in a moderate neighborhood w/ a drug
alley just a block away replete w/ knife fights and a few murders.
The local bar offers escort services at night from the metro for
people coming home after dark.  (The bar's patrons are also sometimes
the source of the problems.)  The public schools are ... ummm ... not
so good so most residents send their kids to private schools or
charter schools.

If you're willing to live in an "urban edge" community or better yet
... "on the other side of the edge" community then you will have a
better shot at building an "affordable" community.  Plus your
community will bring stability and be an anchor in the community.

If you want to live in MO the rural areas have far fewer restrictions
on building styles.  There are probably other areas of the country w/
fewer zoning issues.

Chris ScottHansen once wrote a really terrific email on building
affordable cohousing.  I remember he wrote about various options like
being willing to live in an area of the country where prices for land
and construction are cheaper.  I took a stab at finding it in the
archives.  Chris ... if you're out there and you can find that email
can you repost it?

Development is a really complex, complex, complex issue.  It's a many
headed Hydra that cannot be reduced to simple formulas.  There are a
zillion variables.  It's a wonder ANYTHING gets built.  To misquote
Yogi Berra (my favorite contemporary philosopher) "... development is
50% science and the other 2/3'rds is art."

If you want to experience the myriad decisions it takes to build a
cohousing community I encourage you to come to the June conference in
Waltham, MA.  Many, if not most, of the development professionals will
be there.   You won't get this opportunity for at least another year.

I doubly encourage you to participate in the Pre-conference workshop
"The Cohousing Time Line Game."  This learning tool, originally
developed by Bruce Coldham (architect for Pine Street etc. located
right there in Amherst, MA) has been greatly expanded and updated by
Meda Ling, one of my business partners in Cohousing  Collaborative.
The game looks at some of the zillion tasks needed to build a
cohousing community and shows participants in an experiential way what
questions they will have to answer and what tasks they will have to do
when they take on developing cohousing.  Jack Wilbern (another biz
partner) and I will be leading this workshop.  I think we limited the
workshop to 15-20 participants so sign up soon (shameless marketing!!)
 And, come to the conference regardless!! ( Not at all shameless!)

Best --

Ann Z.

Ann Zabaldo
Takoma Village Cohousing
Washington, DC
Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
McLean, VA
Voice 703-663-3911
Fax 202-291-8594

On Sun, May 18, 2008 at 11:52 PM, Marganne <marganne [at]> wrote:
> At 7:44 PM -0400 5/18/08, Sharon Villines wrote:
> Part of the lure of living small (under 1000 square feet) is
> incorporating the outside into part of your living space.
> Cheers!
> Marganne

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