Retrofit Cohousing: How to begin
From: Kevin Wolf (
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 01:19:19 -0500
At 11:23 PM 6/6/99 EDT, Nancy Chang wrote:

Hi Nancy
My answers are below.  I am also cc:ing this to the co-housing L mailing list. 
Others there might have suggestions to add.

>How do I judge if a block is good for retrofitting?
1.  Lower income, primarily rental, lower priced homes, unless you want to have 
a more affluent membership. Also, you can often find larger yards in these 
neighborhoods, and over time, expand the size of these often smaller homes, 
even adding granny flats as is being done here.
2.  As many houses as possible should have their public living quarters face 
the back yard. This is classic cohousing design.
3.  A fairly safe neighborhood and good schools.  (this often does not go with 
lower income/rentals). 

There are all kinds of other things one could add to this list but I can't 
think of any that might be deal breakers.  Almost anything can be overcome or 
aren't so important.    

>And would a separate house have to be rented to serve as a common house?
We were lucky in that one of the houses was larger and we could convert it to 
the common house and still rent out four rooms.  The room rental paid most of 
the lease costs.   In a beginning retrofit community in Ontario they plan on 
the basement of one of their brownstones being the common eating and meeting 

>Should I get interested parties together before starting this?
Sure!  Put the word out and have a first meeting.  See who is interested.  Do 
you have goals for what you want out of living in a community and principles 
that you want to guide you?  Write those out and find out what other people's 
are?  Can you live with theirs and they yours?  It would be an interesting to 
know what areas of town might fit the above criteria of yards, renters etc and 
see what different people thought about living in that part of town.

>what if the block we're interested in has only one vacancy?

How many are rentals?  How often do they come up for rent? How often do homes 
come up for sale? This will give you an idea of how long it would take to 
develop a critical core of homes and how long to incorporate the entire block.

By the way, what do you mean by noncontiguous?

You don't have to only buy or rent homes that are adjacent to one another so 
that the fences can be removed.  Think long term.  Buy and rent in that area.  
One day all the in between houses will likely be part of the community and the 
formerly noncontiguous house is now adjacent.  You can even rent houses around 
the neighborhood as close as possible to the designated block so that you have 
more people being part of the community before homes on the block become 

I hope this helps.

N Street Cohousing

>Nancy Chang

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