Zoning Progress
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2021 16:28:17 -0700 (PDT)
Thank you Philip for your post on zoning. My ultimate goal is to design a model 
for creating a cohousing community in which units sell for $100,000-$200,000. 
Or more if the unit also includes a rental unit.

Zoning is a major problem but the only way to confront it is locally. All the 
press is good but zoning boards don’t have to read the major newspapers, much 
less follow the advice. In order to confront it locally it needs to get started 
the way other communities have started.

1. A core group forms —3-5 burning souls who are committed to building a 
low-income cohousing community.

2. Choose a name from the beginning so you have a defined ego — a center of 

3. While attracting other people to join, begin looking at possible properties 
— buildings, infill, open land — and study zoning. 

4. Gather support — there are many people on Cohousing-L who have a lot of 
information and they also know people. They can write letters of support to 
city agencies and key politicians. They can review construction ideas to 
streamline them. Cohousing-L and Cohousing USA is a goldmine of information.

5. Commit to the cost limits. Every community starts wanting a wide range of 
income diversity. But it is easier to build market rate housing. Easier to get 
zoning and neighborhood support and attract a developer. Don’t be distracted by 
households that really want construction that is super green with granite 
countertops. Stick to the goal.

6. Begin to design and plan from zero and work up to what is absolutely 
essential. If you start with a market rate house then you are put in the 
position of giving things up. It becomes a depressing task of deleting instead 
of building.

7. Focus on building up to ownership of a sturdy but simple construction that 
is mortgage worthy. Housing that costs you only 30% of your income. Focus on 
the advantages of having a stable, permanent home (as much as anything is 
permanent). No landlord who sells your property to be destroyed, doubles the 
rent, or refuses to fix the heat.

8. And gather more support. There are people out there who want this to happen 
but they can’t support something nebulous. They need a specific task, location, 
problem to support.

9. There are dozens of strategies for building low cost housing. Study them and 
choose one. What do you have to do to build it?

10. Zoning. It’s fine to partner with other groups working on zoning changes 
but I think if you focus on a specific plan — building style and location you 
will get there faster. Be task oriented. You need a home. Bottom line.

I can do research and post information forever, but we need a core group of 
people who want to create a community that can be a model for others.

Sharon Villines
affordablecohousing [at] groups.io
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