Re: Development Financial Structure
From: Elizabeth Stevenson (
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2002 10:20:02 -0700 (MST)
I'm sorry I offended you. But I am entitled to my opinion, and that's all it
is. I do feel that you didn't bother to read my reply to Rob Sandelin, or
you could have saved yourself some righteous indignation.

I never said you could build it without money. I just said there are other
ways to go about getting it. There WILL be less diversity of income if
everyone has to have the same amount of money when they commit - only three
meetings into the process. And you're setting up a two tiered social system
if you only let the people with less income in AFTER you have made all the
decisions about the community and how it will be first.

And I stand by what I said about community. Let's assume the project moves
quickly. You-all are going to have a lot of work to do after move-in. It
will be great! It will be a wonderful learning experience, and many of you
will still be there after the dust settles and you'll have a community. But
not without losing a substantial number of people who rushed into cohousing
and didn't know what they were getting into, or people who committed money
and then had to leave.

We'll see. Remember, it's just an opinion. I don't mean to offend you, but
it would be silly for me to try to help anyone on this list without speaking
up when I think there's a problem.

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, California
tamgoddess [at]
> From: Jeff Coffin <jcoffin [at]>
> Reply-To: cohousing-l [at]
> Date: 19 Nov 2002 15:57:12 -0000
> To: cohousing-l [at]
> Subject: Re: [C-L]_Development Financial Structure
> 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
> homogeneity?
> 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
> built.
> Advice and alternative funding ideas are welcome, baseless criticism
> about our specific financial situation is not.
> --jeff

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