Re: housing options
From: cynthia . e . carpenter (
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 08:59:14 -0700 (MST)

<<  I don't think the cost of
 private unit design... the economic, social, community, and emotional
 costs...  provides us as individual households with anything close to the
 benefit that we romantically imagine.  It certainly does nothing positive
 for the community.  In fact, it can be argued that it is often destructive.

Chris' argument has a lot of truth in it.  We, too, found that many (or even
most?) people did not end up moving into the unit they had originally planned to
buy.  Costs changed, ideas about what was important changed, and common and site
design changes affected the merits of various units.  But we are all
romantically attached to the idea of building our dream home, and I think that
completely eliminating member input into unit designs would be very tough.

An alternative is to keep other communities' track record in mind, and realize
that you need design input from a diverse group of members, not just the ones
who think they will buy a unit with that design (because it probably won't be
them).   I think that some of our best unit designs had input from several
families in the community with varying sizes and needs who saw themselves as
future owners (whether or not they eventually were).  On the other hand, one of
our unit designs clearly didn't meet the end owners' needs (both buyers reworked
the design at significant cost to themselves).  That unit design had originally
been conceived for one particular type of family (with > 2 kids, of which we
were the only representatives at that time) and didn't have input from any
member (not even us, due to some failure in process).

Rob suggested:

>>Well just to play the other side of the idea, you could just build spaces,
and let each individual do whatever they wanted in terms of finishing it
out. Seems like a lot of the passion goes into stuff like bathtubs,
kitchens, etc. So you build a shell and let people fill it in to their taste
and budget. The shell framework is the same, the plumbing is set, but the
cabinets, sink, faucetts, bathtub, carpet type, paint, colors etc are chosen
by the owner.


We did a modified version of this approach at Cambridge Cohousing which I think
worked fairly well.  Our design committee put together a book of "options."
There were three to five types each of kitchen and bathroom faucets, kitchen and
bathroom cabinets, floor options (e.g. wood, carpet, linoleum, slate), hall
lighting, bathtubs, refrigerators, stoves, etc.  The book had pictures, specs,
and additional costs or credits to your base unit price for each choice.  We
chose, for example, to not have a garbage disposal (which resulted in a credit),
to install a standard color and countertop material for our kitchen (no change
to our unit cost), and to have an extra large bathtub (which cost us extra).
Each unit buyer got one meeting with the architect to go over their choices,
decide where to put overhead lights and cable outlets, where to put the kitchen
appliances, etc. and discuss the overall effect and pricetags.  We also all paid
a bump on top of the specific options costs to cover the administrative work on
the part of the builders and contractors.

- Cindy

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