Regenerative Villages & Affordable Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 2 May 2021 17:00:43 -0700 (PDT)
I attended the conference I posted about a few days ago—late notice and I knew 
none of the people but I took a chance. It was wonderful. The biggest takeaway 
is that in order to build low cost cohousing, we need to think bigger. Doing it 
with 30 units is too small to cover all the fixed construction costs like 
expert advice, permitting, etc. There are just some things that don’t get 
cheaper with size. The other reason is that a larger project is more likely to 
be eligible for a wider range of funding. 

The Regenerative Village model is basically cohousing on steroids. Some people 
are building off grid but the most exciting projects are large — village size 
with a school, shops, permaculture, food growing systems, etc. Two (at least) 
speakers detailed the process of developing a plan that can be presented to 
investors. How to do it and what to avoid. Very specific presentation by Franco 
Capurra who has been financing regenerative villages for 9 years. He has had 
several companies that invest in sustainable real estate with a purpose 

He is doing something very interesting now in the US. He finds apartment 
buildings, finds investors, purchases and rehabs the buildings with people in 
place, and then begins an education plan about village living, sustainability, 
etc. What others here have talked about in terms of buying a small apartment 
building and turning it into cohousing over time as people leave. He does all 
this professional level business and investment plans paying 5% dividends and 
money can be withdrawn in 5 years. The only issue he came up against was the 
the interested investors were Republicans. He saiid he finally resolved that 
for himself by realizing that if you want to convince the world about the 
importance of regenerativity, starting with Republicans is a good place. And 
you convince Republicans with return on investment.

One of the advantages of cohousing is that we have a model that is very 
successful and has been duplicated many times. I haven’t heard of any 
communities that have failed once they reached construction. We know all the 
pieces that work and why. The issue of scale is important but the rest has been 
tested. And Capurro himself has now tested a larger model even if he doesn’t 
call it cohousing.

His buildings are also rentals because of legal issues related to certifying 
investors. He has worked out a non-profit/business model so the residents 
control the building.

The other talk I found most interesting was by a futurist from Australia, Tony 
Hunter, who spoke about Resilient Food! Greenhouses, Vertical Farms, 
Automation. Basically space age buildings, relatively tall and large — geodesic 
dome looking — in which food is grown all around inside the building. This 
brings nature inside to the people instead of people out to the country to 
nature. He gave a lot of figures on people moving to cities. That’s where they 
want to be and they will move there no matter what — they will just be 
miserable unless the housing issues are solved.

One repeated message was that we need to do more with less. What is the most 
efficient way to produce high quality food? Hydroponics. I’ve been reading 
about this in other places--guaranteed quality, organic, and uses 3 times less 
water. The lobby of one of his buildings grows broccoli and an office grows 
hanging plants from planter over head. Trees on balconies up the whole side of 
the building clean the air, provide shade, and create restfulness.

Being dependent on technology makes me uncomfortable but people are installing 
back up systems. And unless we can get people to adopt a one child policy, 
people are multiplying too fast for any other option than technology. I wanted 
to ask if the pandemic had made any dent in population growth but it is 
probably too soon to tell. Other authors have suggested that the plagues in 
Europe brought great wealth to countries by reducing people who required food, 
etc. They regularly balanced the population and resources.

In looking at low-cost housing, I found that there are tons of ways to build 
safe and secure low cost housing but zoning won’t allow it. If you build out in 
the country there is no zoning but you have the added costs of running 
electricity and water and sewers to the buildings. And even roads. But the the 
biggest problem is jobs — there just aren’t a lot of jobs out in the desert — 
and commuting makes the advantage of affordable housing mute.

In the city the only direction, as Alan Ohashi has said, is UP. Tony Hunter 
says the same thing and has examples of this being done and avoiding the 
sterile office tower feeling of most condo buildings with 30 stories of offices 
pretending to be homes.

And even more exciting, I hope, is that all this gives life to an idea I’ve 
been playing with for years but had no idea how to even begin: Buy a building 
in the center or near center of the city and put commercial on the first floor 
and cohousing upstairs. The Regenerative Village concept looks at the community 
as a whole — food supply, energy production, etc. A whole building allows 
putting the shops that everyone wants/needs on the first floor — places to buy 
milk on Sunday morning, vegetables everyday, and other services like medical 
offices, daycare, tech support, hardware store, etc. It would supply what most 
residents of city centers are finding missing: plain old everyday shopping.

In DC if not other cities there is also a need for safe short-term rentals for 
young people or scholars who are here for fellowships, internships, or on 
research grants. They need something like a one room micro unit with 3-24 month 
leases. The second floor could be made up of these, perhaps with some larger 
units for those with children. We have rented to at least 2 of those— one from 
Germany with 4 children and one from Spain with a child and a dog. 

The first two floors would thus provide income for the community. Depending on 
the size of the building, another floor could be the CH with some amenities on 
each floor, like laundry facilities.

A large project like that would seem to be attractive to investors and would 
make it possible to hire the expert help to convince them of the viability of 
the project.

I don’t know if people can join the conference after the fact by paying for 
access to the videos but they will all be online.  3 days of one hour videos. 
Some were on meditation and personal growth and some were not very good, but 
there were enough good ones to be worth $95. And the materials are also online 
to download. 

Right now I’m out of brain width.

Sharon Villines
Affordable Cohousing begins with 30% of your income, not 80% of someone else's.
affordablecohousing [at]
To subscribe: affordablecohousing+subscribe [at]

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.