RE: housing options- diverse can work
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 23:13:13 -0700 (MST)
If you are trying to keep to a tight group budget, and build out all at
once, I would advise severely limiting the floor plans and then be HARDCORE
about change orders later. Avoid the custom house syndrome. As Chris Hanson
says, its usually cheaper to remodel after you build than to do a dozen
change orders. With paint you can acheive a great deal of visual variety,
and site design elements other than housing, like courtyards, entries,
plantings can make a lot of visual differences without costing you much at

I do agree with Lynn that whether your houses are all different, or all the
same, it will have no effect on your relationships living together. However,
if you are not careful, the decision making conflicts you will get in will
indeed effect your relationships. This is not a good time to not have a good
group process and conflict setups in place.

Sell your community by the relationships between the people, let real estate
and housing styles be a distant second choice for those who join you. The
more you can let go of Housism, the easier your design stuff will be, and
the happier you will be as a group later, because your energy will be spent
on more rewarding things. The biggest area of conflicts come over housism
detailing which in the end, you will all agree, was a really stupid waste of
your time and life energy.

You will have to make trade-offs against a budget, significant ones
sometimes against other values like environmental stuff. But a house is just
walls and a roof. There is no perfect solution, things your neighbors love,
you may hate, and back. And if you use consensus, you can spend HUGE amounts
of time discovering that there is no best solution whether the tile is green
or blue, and so consensus does not work here. Design elements are personal,
and doing personal choices against a group is going to leave you with a
fairly large amount of dissatisfaction all around. The sooner you can laugh,
and let go of that stuff, the happier you will be. The really foolish ones,
that absolutely can't let go, will leave you at this point, because they
will have discovered, at your groups expense, that they can't be
collaborators on their house design. Heck, Married couples get divorced over
this stuff all the time.

So learn to let go, often, with grace, and with good humor. Capture the
angst, and encourage others to let go too. Remember why you are doing this
(and I hope its not because you always wanted to be real estate developer).
And for heavons sake, don't forget to congratulate yourselves, acknowlege
your work, and have more parties. Design phase is when you need the highest
level of group cohesion. There will be too many meetings, and you will need
to steer people into parties when ever you can do so. Having GREAT
facilitators in your group can save you here.

Too many groups loose people here, especially new comers. They join, see a
bunch of unhappy, stressed and conflicted people and go, YUCK! Who'd want to
live there?

Remember your timeframe. Ask yourself, will this really matter in two years?
Will I care whether the roof drain color is brown or gray? Will fighting
about all this stuff make me happy to live here, or will I hold resentments
about this stuff?

Rob Sandelin
Northwest Intentional Communities Association
Building a better society, one neighborhood at a time

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cohousing-l [at]
> [mailto:cohousing-l [at]]On Behalf Of Lynn Nadeau
> Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2000 7:19 AM
> To: Multiple recipients of list
> Subject: Re: housing options- diverse can work
> I can't tell you what the impact of diverse housing is on the development
> aspect of the project. I'm sure others will address that. But I can
> address the "psychological" part.
> I can reassure you that diverse levels of size or fanciness or style
> don't need to have any effect at all on community. At RoseWind we are
> about as diverse as you can get, being a lot development model. Some of
> us live in 800 sq feet, and others in 3000 sq feet. (At Sharingwood,
> another lot development model, one fellow lives in a 10x10 ft cabin,
> among big fancy houses.)  Some have cedar siding, some plywood; some have
> oak floors, some cement, some have gargoyles and carvings and wild
> fantasy bits, and others are stark plain. A dome lives next to a stucco,
> to a stick-frame, to a strawbale. Doesn't make any difference in how we
> treat each other. We respect each other's choices.
> Another way our diverse housing works, is that those of us with larger
> houses can host gatherings, or guests --- and my basement seems to be a
> magnet for people's bulky computer-shipping boxes!
> So it seems the question is, is there a simple way to move the burden of
> extra time and money to the person for whom additional features are worth
> it? If they pay for the difference, what difference should it make to the
> others? Visual variety is pleasant for everybody. Variety of house sizes
> and types also increases the breadth of market for eventual resales---
> some people will only buy something small and simple, and others will
> only buy larger or fancier. Communities also sometimes experience
> eventual swapping around among members -- after some years, some families
> shrink, others grow, but people still want to stay in the community.
> Different size units are useful that way.
> Good luck-
> Lynn Nadeau
> RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend
> (We may be "slo-track" but the drywall is going up in the common house,
> and our last two lots are about to be bought! )

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