Re: Single developer-cohousing model
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2018 12:16:00 -0700 (PDT)
> Betty asked about: " understand the single developer-cohousing model, where a 
>    developer buys the land with the intent of developing a cohousing 
>    neighborhood,  then reaches out to find interested folks to make it 
> happen?" 
> I know of no developer that will partner with cohousing buyers without being 
> convinced that there is a group that can get the project sold out, and that 
> buyer's group is ready to put in all or at least most of the equity required 
> to get the project to get to the start of construction.

Takoma Village began with a developer who had an option on the land, thought of 
cohousing as part of a multi-household development. He found Ann and asked her 
if she thought it might work. She pulled an introductory session together 
practically over night with 30 people. He was (almost) convinced it was doable.

The developer hired Ann part time to do the marketing (her specialty) and 
community development (another specialty). The developer and the design team 
designed the facilities, with a heavy hand from the developer to keep 
construction costs down. We had to have all our contracts signed with a deposit 
check attached by 6:00 one day in order for him to get a construction loan and 
secure the option on the land. We were also developed in a period where real 
estate prices were going up, less risk, and if we hadn’t made the deadline, we 
probably wouldn’t be here. Instead of half the property being cohousing, the 
whole development was.

But this takes an experienced developer who has his own funds built up so he 
can initially invest in permits and construction plans before a construction 
loan can be obtained. The project was also designed so if necessary the 
townhouses could have been sold independently of the cohousing section.

There was another situation in Florida that the group didn’t follow up where a 
developer of a large housing project, agreed to do a circle of houses around a 
center area that could be developed by the cohousers as a CH. But the features 
didn’t reflect enough cohousing desires and they passed. Typical cheap 
construction. No play areas because Florida has adopted zero lot 
buildings—almost nothing to mow. Kitchens on the back.

In NY a developer of a high rise agreed to develop 2 floors for a cohousing 
community. It fell through for other reasons than developer interest.

These were all conventional developers who had never done cohousing but had 
lots of experience with residential development.

More and more conventional developers know about cohousing and might be 
interested with a strong proposal from committed buyers. As Katie said, buyers 
can walk away and leave a developer stranded. There are also enough cohousing 
professionals now who can consult with developers on cohousing features. 

Chris Scott Hanson who wrote the Cohousing Handbook works with groups in the 
beginning to put this part together. He works everywhere.

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