Re: Development Financial Structure
From: Jeff Coffin (
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 08:48:01 -0700 (MST)
Elizabeth Stevenson <tamgoddess [at]> writes:

> It could lead very easily to the group falling apart, IMO, since it
> would scare away lots of potential members and you might not be able
> to get all the financing you need anyway. Why should strangers have
> to pony up cash for something that may never come to fruition?

Because it costs money to pay architects, engineers and consultants.
It costs money to file plans with the city.  While the philosophical
goals of a cohousing community may seem at odds with the risky and
costly financial bottom line of housing development, unless all the
members are committed to serious risk of wasting vast amounts of time
only to fail because of money, you need to get something up front.

Personally, I'd rather invest some money along with the infinite time
that is required for a coho project than have all my time go for
naught because it turned out that 2/3rds of the people involved can't
actually make it happen when the inevitable call for cash happens.

Not all future members need pay tons of money up front.  It is
possible for some people to put up more in order to make it possible
for others with less to keep involved.  Aside from grants and
government funding - and the attendant strings and rules - I don't see
where the money will come from.

If you have some specific suggestions or financial structures that
would make designing and building with little or no up front cash
possible, please share them.  I'd love to know of different
alternatives that won't seriously impact a pressured time frame.

> Giving people money requires trust, and you need to build community
> to have trust.

Unfortunately, there's this pesky financial reality that developing
land and getting the plans through the city planning process costs
money.  I would argue that committing money to this process makes for a
more focused and serious group.

> This getting money up front trend is disturbing to me. The very
> people responsible for bringing cohousing to the rest of the world,
> Chuck and Katie, are involved in a new group that requires people to
> pay up after only THREE MEETINGS. This is insane.

As a member of said group, I must supply a bit more context here as it
is unusual for a cohousing group.  In our case the property was
located and a contract signed before the group was formed.  We need to
move quickly to make this particular project happen.  Those of us who
are involved understand the situation.  Unlike many other groups, we
didn't form then spend years bonding prior to locating a property.  So
be it.  Things don't always play out the same for every group.

> Let's assume they accomplish their goal of getting this built
> quickly with this strategy.  What will they have?  Very nice houses
> in a "good" neighborhood.  That is all.

That is a pretty giant, offensive assumption don't you think?

> And homogeneous?  You bet.

The core founding group, those of us living with "their goal of
getting this built quickly with this strategy", may end up accounting
for less than 1/2 the units.  How does this necessarily enforce

Are you so sure that none of us are interested in making it affordable
for others?

Could it be that getting significant capital up front from members
might actually make the whole thing _less_ expensive since we'll have
less interest to pay out to possible lenders?

> I'm not saying it takes five years to build a community, or that it
> should.  But if your only focus is on getting money, you can't build
> community.  Getting it built fast is not the be-all and end-all of
> cohousing.

Nor can there be a cohousing development built without money.  Our
situation is unusual, but after the last few months of this process I
am certain that we will have a strong community by the time we're

Advice and alternative funding ideas are welcome, baseless criticism
about our specific financial situation is not.


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