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Highlights: Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities

These are my highlights from the "Cohousing Bible" - Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities.

This is not some sentimentality: the average American eats meals with friends, family, neighbors, half as often as fifty years ago. The average American has half as many close friends. LOCATION: 147

There are now nearly 120 built communities and about 58 in the planning stages. LOCATION: 178

Pioneered in Denmark, the cohousing concept LOCATION: 189

The modern single-family detached home, which makes up 69 percent of American housing stock, was designed for a nuclear family consisting of a breadwinning father, a homemaking mother, and two to four children. Today, this household type is in the minority. LOCATION: 218

Well over a quarter of the population lives alone, and this proportion is predicted to grow as the number of Americans aged 60 and over increases. LOCATION: 221

The first cohousing development was built in 1972 outside Copenhagen, Denmark, by 27 families who wanted a greater sense of community than that offered by suburban subdivisions or apartment complexes. LOCATION: 238

with the majority between 15 and 33 residences. LOCATION: 250

Many residents eat in the common house three or four times a week, and have more intimate family dinners at home the other evenings. LOCATION: 399

Cooking for 40 may seem like an enormous job for two to three people, but with a well-equipped community kitchen, it’s not much more complicated than cooking for six in a normal kitchen — cooks just learn to use ten times as much of everything. LOCATION: 402

On any given evening, about 30 to 50 percent of the residents take part. LOCATION: 411

coq au vin over quinoa, a fresh garden salad with lots of tomatoes, and fresh baked bread LOCATION: 418

Committees are formed by interest groups — outdoor areas, special children’s activities, website and financing, minutes of meetings, general maintenance, social events, and others. Every adult is a member of at least one such group. LOCATION: 456

When one resident takes his laundry out, he puts in the next load in line, so no one has to wait around for an empty machine. LOCATION: 466

Recent events included a Harvest Festival, a chili cook-off, and an apple pie baking contest. LOCATION: 491

Saturday morning breakfasts on their front porches. All the dwellings have private patios in back, but people seem to prefer sitting in front along the main paths LOCATION: 507

for incredibly rich and wonderful conversation that grows richer and deeper over time as you get to know your neighbors better and better. It is the tax that makes all of the benefits of cohousing possible. “Can you have community without people? No. Can you have people without occasional annoyances? No. And there you have it.” LOCATION: 528

In the houses, the kitchen and dining area — the room most families “live” in — looks onto the walkway. LOCATION: 532

standard American condominium ownership model in which each resident owns a house and a portion of the common areas. Members pay a monthly homeowners’ association fee that is based on the size of their individual home. LOCATION: 547

After identifying the site, we met with the mayor of Nevada City. LOCATION: 570

Seventeen public hearings and nine months later, we were approved by a vote of three to two. The mayor did not vote in our favor, though he now commends us LOCATION: 573

Several members of the community are able to work and live in the cohousing without the isolation of working from home. LOCATION: 638

For instance, many residents of early cohousing developments were reluctant to commit to common dinners, thinking they would be nice once or maybe twice a week, but not on a regular basis. Yet when common dinners are set up for success (meaning they are predictably frequent) and take place in a warm and giving physical space, they have proven overwhelmingly successful. LOCATION: 720

Larger communities can more readily absorb varying degrees of participation and differences of opinion. By trial and error, the Danes have figured out and are adamant that you should “never build a cohousing community with more than 50 adults.” LOCATION: 777

A cohousing community that contains 20 to 50 adults seems to be an optimum size. In our experience, “51 and above” challenges the capacity for a cohousing community to operate in the spirit in which it was built, and when a community contains fewer than 20 adults, the likelihood that every resident will form solid social connections is challenged. In other words, every adult in a cohousing community should ideally have four or five others that they really connect with. But the community should not be so large that residents become, in effect, strangers. LOCATION: 784

Gathering nodes along the walkway, such as a picnic table or sandbox, are also important features that support socializing and collaborative activities. Such nodes are typically associated with every five to nine houses. Optimally, residents can see at least one gathering node without leaving their homes. LOCATION: 820

Most of the early communities in Denmark, and the large majority of communities in the United States, have used a condominium financing model with a homeowners’ association. LOCATION: 871

Beginning in 1982, Danish communities have been able to take advantage of government-sponsored, guaranteed construction loans that structure the developments as limited-equity cooperatives. LOCATION: 874

many dozens of projects in Denmark have resulted from collaborations between nonprofits and resident groups to build rental units. This scheme is now available in the United States, where the first all-rental cohousing community for low-income households (less than 60 percent of median income) was completed in 2009 in Sebastopol, California. LOCATION: 875

They have organized regular functions, like daily common dinners, that preserve and invigorate community life. LOCATION: 903

neither the suburban single-family home nor the multi-story apartment building were acceptable alternatives, because both lack the common facilities needed to create a true sense of community. LOCATION: 923

30 years later Trudeslund is still going strong. The kids who grew up there (now 25 or 30 years old) are now moving back. LOCATION: 928

Gudmand-Høyer wrote an article in 1968 entitled “The Missing Link Between Utopia and the Dated One-Family House.” It was published in Information, a serious national publication with a wide readership, and elicited a tremendous response. Gudmand-Høyer received more than two hundred letters from people interested LOCATION: 948

While visiting Skråplanet in May 2010 we were astounded to see what a high-functioning community it still is. The residents were planning stairs with ramps and handrails for when they grow older. LOCATION: 960

Another important influence on the development of co-housing was “Children Should Have One Hundred Parents,” a 1967 article by Bodil Graae. LOCATION: 966

Children who grew up there are planning a new cohousing in the neighboring town of Ballerup. LOCATION: 972

Jan Gudmand-Høyer was aware of the difficulty that new developments groups faced. To assist people through the difficult planning stages, he and a group of other architects, lawyers, building technicians, and social scientists formed a professional support association called SAMBO (roughly translated as “live together”) in 1978. LOCATION: 992

A new architectural firm called Vandkunsten took first place with a proposal that was essentially a manifesto calling for a cooperative society and humane communities that integrate work, housing, and recreation: LOCATION: 998

Our drawing studio was in the middle of the construction site so we had optimal contact with the residents and an ongoing exhibit of the design revisions. We held three to four resident meetings a day. LOCATION: 1064

Banks were once reluctant to loan to cohousing groups, but this sentiment has evolved and cohousing communities are now considered “a preferred risk” since most units are pre-sold long before construction is completed LOCATION: 1091

Cohousing developments also have an excellent track record of good management and for paying back their loans. LOCATION: 1093

“I can’t imagine raising children any other way,” one teenager told us. Better than anyone, they know the benefits of growing up in cohousing. And you can see the children who grew up in cohousing thirty years ago starting new communities. LOCATION: 1115

I know I live in a community because on a Friday night it takes me 45 minutes and two beers to get from the parking lot to my front door. — Trudeslund resident LOCATION: 1163

the group hired architects with the most experience in community-oriented design. LOCATION: 1186

if two people start talking and want to continue for more than two minutes, for instance, there is always somewhere close by to sit down for a longer discussion. LOCATION: 1187

Trudeslund is a place that encourages spontaneous interaction LOCATION: 1189

Our common house is a grand success. LOCATION: 1201

most residents agree that standardized kitchens would have been fine, since they eat dinners so often in the common house. Standardization would have reduced construction costs — a lesson from which many subsequent communities have benefited. LOCATION: 1216

Situated on valuable property near the train station with a direct line into central Copenhagen, Trudeslund is also close to a forested recreation area, lakes, and the pleasant town of Birkerød. LOCATION: 1220

Common dinners in particular have cut down the amount we spend on food and the frequency with which we eat out. LOCATION: 1226

A cooperative store, located in the common house, is stocked with household goods, from toothpaste to cornflakes. Each household has a key, so that residents can pick up goods at any hour. They write down what they take in the account book and receive a bill at the end of the month. LOCATION: 1228

The store is run by one of the nine “interest groups.” Every adult participates in at least one interest group. These groups are responsible for coordinating and maintaining all community activities. LOCATION: 1233

five others own a sailboat together. LOCATION: 1239

Twenty-nine of the thirty-three households have also pooled their resources to buy a 17-room vacation house in Sweden. LOCATION: 1239

the necessary daily functions in the private dwellings, but transfer as many as possible of the other functions to the community, thereby encouraging social interaction. LOCATION: 1253

the community decided to start its own after-school program and to send preschoolers to existing childcare centers in the neighborhood. LOCATION: 1257

Similarly, the cooking committee matches up people who don’t know each other or who often don’t agree with each other. LOCATION: 1285

The community has proactive incentives to get everyone participating on work days and committees, LOCATION: 1291

Serious buyers are required to attend a couple of common meetings, a couple of dinners, and two common work days. In these ways, the residents proactively set up their community for long-term success. LOCATION: 1293

serve the needs of women raising children alone, be convenient and emotionally gratifying for parents, and be safer for children. LOCATION: 1305

The Sun and Wind site committee met with county authorities to discuss purchasing county-owned land. The county proposed several sites, which the committee then comprehensively researched by visiting each site and discussing its price and location. LOCATION: 1341

Commitments needed to be made to secure a guarantee for a construction loan. A recruiting campaign attracted a broad variety of people, and as the project began to appear more realistic, many of those who had been hesitant earlier on took a renewed interest — especially when they reviewed the incredible designs that the group and the architects had created together. LOCATION: 1372

Membership. Interested persons become active members of the group by attending three meetings, paying membership fees, signing the organizing agreement, and joining a working committee. LOCATION: 1379

The work groups, the architects, and other consultants were asked to report in each issue on their progress, for better or for worse. LOCATION: 1400

Publicity Matters The Sun and Wind group used every means imaginable to publicize their project to increase membership and create community goodwill. But in truth, they mostly relied on free grassroots organizing techniques. They made sure to get a mention in every free local community calendar listing. They created one-page fliers and posted them in preschools, churches, grocery stores, and elsewhere. They wrote radio PSAs (public service announcements) that radio stations broadcast for free. They wrote articles for their newsletters, local papers, and so on. Most importantly, they committed themselves to the long view and never gave up. LOCATION: 1407

Five basic floor plans were developed from a “core house” (one is shown here), which could be expanded at the time of construction or later as the household desired. Designing for the future changes allows the units to be adapted as a household’s needs change, a requirement for long-term stability of the community. In recent years there have been so many additions to the houses at Sun and Wind that a resident carpenter works nearly full time on commissions from his neighbors. LOCATION: 1426

living at Sun and Wind provides “a renewed freedom. When you have children you lose some of your freedom. To move into cohousing is to regain it.” LOCATION: 1526

There were disadvantages with our previous shared house, especially the high turnover — it was inherently unstable. It might be OK for an adult, but it’s difficult for children — our son would just start to get close to someone when they would move. It was almost like divorce for him. And when there was a tension between a couple, the entire house felt it. Furthermore, most single-family houses aren’t designed for adults to live together equally. LOCATION: 1532

Here we’re not isolated, nor do we have to deal so much with the personal problems of others. The first year was a bit difficult getting to know everyone, but not for Soren; kids just fit right in. Nor do I have to worry about him when he’s playing outside — he has more freedom here than he would anywhere else. But, as you might expect, it takes time to get to know fifty other adults. LOCATION: 1538

restored an old farm building to house crafts, woodworking workshops, and a youth hangout. LOCATION: 1546

equity, the residents of Jerngarden transformed an inner city junkyard and eight deteriorated row houses into an urban paradise. By combining their backyards, they created a small park in the middle of the city block. LOCATION: 1586

five of the original eight households remained thirty years after move-in. LOCATION: 1617

fixing up bad neighborhoods with existing infrastructure where no one wants to live. No one doubts that cohousing is the best redevelopment scenario. It brings in motivated citizens and capital from the residents, as well as a developer that has faith in them — much more than that part of town. LOCATION: 1646

Each one is just over two hundred square feet with its own bathroom. These “S-rooms” are used as guest rooms, office space, or teenagers’ bedrooms. For instance, one family found that living with three children in their small dwelling was too cramped. By renting the S-room next door for a few years, they gave their teenage daughter more privacy, and everyone retained their sanity. A mother of two used another S-room to study for her architectural exams. LOCATION: 1687

The parents hire teachers (none of whom lives there) to run the program but supervise it closely themselves. Not only is full-time community childcare convenient, but it makes use of the common facilities during the otherwise quiet daytime hours, when most adults are away at work. LOCATION: 1694

Private decks extending over the covered street and ground-level patios provide every house with a sunny, private outdoor area. LOCATION: 1710

High ceilings allow for extensive use of sleeping and storage lofts, which add as much as 15 to 20 percent to the usable floor area of the house. LOCATION: 1712

County officials encouraged them but the town’s residents, keeping true to a no-growth sentiment, were suspicious of the project. But when the townspeople realized that 21 new households would bring enough children to keep the school open, their protests quieted. LOCATION: 1715

since what you’re doing is working from a sustainability point of view, from a neighborhood point of view, and from a cost point of view, they usually end up supporting the project. LOCATION: 1766

I marveled at the contrast between this group of houses and everywhere else I passed on my daily walk. When I walked by single-family houses, I noticed that there was no life between the homes. Then I walked past an apartment complex. No life there. LOCATION: 1786

They felt that a neighborhood was too important to leave to chance. LOCATION: 1793

It got to the point that we had to make appointments to see our friends: “Let’s get together some time next month.” LOCATION: 1800

Friendship, a more spontaneous environment, and the notion of shared child-rearing motivated us most. LOCATION: 1802

As in every cohousing community, parking is kept to one side, using as little land as possible and keeping the living/playing area safer, cleaner, and quieter. At Torn, the residents built a carport after they moved in. Having all the cars in one place promotes casual interaction. LOCATION: 1830

“I don’t think six families is the perfect number,” said a father of two. “Maybe twenty is the right number. We might have compromised on our site selection too quickly. Six households limit the level of activity, and if someone doesn’t take part for a while, you feel it. If someone doesn’t do his share (common work days are about once a month), you notice it.” LOCATION: 1853

Still, we wouldn’t dream of moving out. It’s practically heaven here, especially in the summer. LOCATION: 1863

minimum rules are expressed to each person who moves in, including: LOCATION: 1911

cook for your neighbors in the common house at least once a month. LOCATION: 1912

participation is required in a minimum number of committees (such as landscaping or similar) — based on what you like to do. LOCATION: 1914

participate in a minimum number of hours each year to help with landscape, maintenance, or grounds clean up. LOCATION: 1916

To set new neighborhood members and residents up for success, there is a thorough conversation about what it took to make the neighborhood a success in the first place, what are the minimum expectations of residents, and what will make this place a success for years to come (i.e. participation). LOCATION: 1919

Too many human hours will be lost to the television, good folks separated by walls watching separate televisions, rather than, for example, two people sitting on one front porch, LOCATION: 1935

Defining the Dream Drejerbanken’s initiating group emerged from a seminar on housing alternatives for people who were reconsidering their lodging situations. LOCATION: 1971

To avoid domination by a few individuals during the planning process, the group started each meeting with a brief “round-table” discussion format in which each person could comment on a topic. “It was very successful,” remembers a participant, “especially at incorporating new or shy members.” LOCATION: 1983

Within months they had located a site owned by the county which was large enough for twenty dwellings. LOCATION: 1995

Although the group held public meetings to familiarize neighbors with the project, townsfolk were still concerned about adding fifty people to the town of four hundred. LOCATION: 2000

“Nor was the county planning department particularly crazy about cohousing itself,” recalls one participant. “It didn’t fit neatly into their Master LOCATION: 2001

Management Committees Budgeting (and bookkeeping): two adults, two years Dinner (scheduling cooks and assistants): two adults, one year Energy (and energy conservation): three adults, time varies Culture (parties, films, lectures, and outings): participation varies Chicken Duty: two adults for 14 days (they built their own chicken house) Maintenance (organize work days every month): four adults per year, sometimes rotates LOCATION: 2086

The person who volunteers to be “in charge” of the section that grows the carrots and potatoes officially doesn’t have to do any of the work, but must coordinate the effort. We use this method for painting and everything. LOCATION: 2096

Every adult puts in a minimum of 30 hours per year, besides committee work and administrative stuff — except accounting, which counts as work time. LOCATION: 2097

Each night, three adults and two children make dinner and clean up afterward. Each adult cooks three times a month, and each child helps twice a month, starting at age seven. The meal cost is fixed at $3.50 (20 DKK) per adult, LOCATION: 2102

Saturday mornings are reserved for general common house cleanup, with mandatory participation at least once every four weeks. Brunch often follows the morning chores. LOCATION: 2104

Four to six work days every year are devoted to less glamorous tasks: purging storage rooms of clutter, miscellaneous landscaping chores, chicken coop scrub down, and window washing. LOCATION: 2106

The summer we were there they were remodeling the common kitchen. “The annual project each year helps maintain some of that positive cooperative energy we had when we were planning Drejerbanken,” LOCATION: 2113

The discussion ranges from practical organization to social activities, from children’s concerns to next year’s projects. This provides the opportunity to go beyond routine business to explore what might make Drejerbanken even better, LOCATION: 2116

who has capacity for empathetic communication and who will never have it, and how to compensate for this. One resident told us, “the key is not to let one of your neighbors ruin your day. LOCATION: 2132

Niels Revsgaard, a senior lecturer in sociology (now retired) at the Odense Teachers Training College. LOCATION: 2146

People typically play music if they happen to have had some exposure to it in their youth. At Drjerbanken all of the children are exposed to the few adults who play music, and as a result almost all of them play some sort of instrument. LOCATION: 2166

In general, I feel that living in cohousing fosters independence and maturity — you learn to cooperate on a small scale, and to accomplish more as an individual. LOCATION: 2171

People get to know you as a whole person in cohousing. In many ways modern society is schizophrenic. You show one side of yourself at work and another side at home; you may begin to wonder who you are. We don’t demonstrate an integrated personality, a functional and emotional side; LOCATION: 2173

A broader range of experiences and more highly developed social skills LOCATION: 2179

Furthermore, I think I have more professional opportunities living here than I would if I lived elsewhere. LOCATION: 2180

It takes a lot of pressure off the family. In general, the modern marriage is overstressed, especially emotionally. LOCATION: 2183

While living in San Francisco, one of us often has to work late, leaving the other without someone to share the day’s traumas, glories, or dinner. At Trudeslund [our residence for six months], if one of us was late, the other was usually found in the common house engrossed in after-dinner conversation, with the other’s absence hardly detected. LOCATION: 2188

Yet, even though divorce might appear easier in cohousing, the statistics show that the divorce rate for people in cohousing is lower than for comparable segments of the general population in Denmark. LOCATION: 2196

domestic chores; is everyone doing their share? Domestic responsibilities are divided more equally among the adults here, LOCATION: 2198

Children who live in cohousing are usually “can do” people because they learn from participating in so many kinds of activities, LOCATION: 2211

Most of all, they can follow many more of their curiosities. If a child loves to paint, there is someone here to give them painting lessons. If they love to swim, there is a family that likes to swim and will take him or her to the pool. LOCATION: 2213

A project gives everyone something in common again, something to talk about. It clearly gives us camaraderie. LOCATION: 2217

The work projects are also great for the children. They get to know and work with adults other than their parents, and learn to communicate with adults. Without the projects, children might not have anything to talk to adults about; dialogue might never get started. LOCATION: 2219

most people in Skalbjerg recognize Drjerbanken as an asset to the town. LOCATION: 2234

The common house is used for everything from town meetings to music practice — with or without residents of Drjerbanken. We have a soccer field that children from the whole town use, LOCATION: 2234

The owner/renter mixture is a good idea for all the obvious reasons. I really appreciate it. But it does make financing and planning a bit more complicated. LOCATION: 2241

The decrease in number, especially of small children, has decreased the mutual interdependence among the adults as well. LOCATION: 2246

we now have three generations living at Drjerbanken. This gives us the sense that we are a large family who live under the same “roof” and are emotional attached to each other. LOCATION: 2254

Cohousing is attractive to many people for practical reasons, especially young parents, but it is important that they can relate to the values of the community as a whole and can contribute in a positive way to everyday life in our community. LOCATION: 2266

We have a very informative homepage, which includes an invitation to visit Drjerbanken. When a house or flat becomes available, it is advertised LOCATION: 2270

Five bofæller (“the introduction group”) are responsible for organizing visits and providing information to potential new residents. The visits consist of an informal and thorough presentation (about an hour and a half) at Drjerbanken, LOCATION: 2272

During the presentation, visitors have the opportunity to meet and talk to those people who are responsible for preparing the evening meal that day. LOCATION: 2274

We have not merely a housing shortage but a broader set of unmet needs caused by the efforts of an entire society to fit itself into a housing pattern that reflects the dreams of the mid-nineteenth century better than the realities of the late twentieth century. — Dolores Hayden, Redesigning the American Dream LOCATION: 2286

Cotati, California 30 Units Architects: McCamant & Durrett Architects LOCATION: 2300

First, the project site was zoned for commercial use on only 2.2 acres and featured a city street right through its middle. Second, the group and the architects envisioned a traditional mixed-use village with housing above commercial space and no setbacks. LOCATION: 2303

they applied for mixed-use zoning in place of the existing single-use commercial zoning. The site was a vestige of 1950s thinking, when most of the United States embraced single-use zoning (shopping over here and living over there). LOCATION: 2307

Places to gather in winter LOCATION: 2336

A place to have large celebrations LOCATION: 2340

Physical markers that highlight community milestones LOCATION: 2341

Space for rituals • Places for “real” conversations • Room to keep adding art into the community LOCATION: 2342

Allows for full light cycle LOCATION: 2346

Not see cars and street when I open the door LOCATION: 2349

Many options for different energy levels (quiet, gathering, wild) LOCATION: 2354

Pleasant in winter — cozy but not dreary LOCATION: 2358

Conducive to many kinds of play LOCATION: 2360

Ability to eat and cook outdoors LOCATION: 2366

Residents use the parking at night and businesses use the same spaces during the day. Parking gets a little tight on Saturday afternoon, LOCATION: 2379

Like many small towns in the area, Cotati did not need more single-family homes spread out across the landscape. LOCATION: 2383

FrogSong Cohousing was recognized in 2004 by the National Home Builders Association as the best smart growth project in the United States. This recognition is ironic in that it proves that a few school teachers and engineers can develop a high-quality neighborhood LOCATION: 2396

a public bike lane through private property; adding color to the street and the neighborhood; a new and frequented bus stop; LOCATION: 2422

Inside a cafe at FrogSong’s commercial space. LOCATION: 2455

Hearthstone Cohousing was the first cohous–ing community in America to be built within a new urbanist development, but because of its success, there are many more in the planning phase today. Completed in 2002, it consists of a 1.6-acre site of mixed-sized housing. It is a part of a larger 27-acre urban infill development, Highlands Garden Village, LOCATION: 2481

Cohousing provided the first residents for a larger neighborhood, a great benefit because it is often difficult to attract the first residents to a new project. 2. The cohousing group helped make the project viable from a business standpoint. 3. The first residents were already a community prior to move-in. LOCATION: 2490

The principles of New Urbanism have had a profound effect on new housing development by encouraging mixed-use, higher density, walkable neighborhoods located near public transportation. LOCATION: 2512

The common house workshop was held in March, the private house workshop in April, the design closure workshop in May, prioritization in June, and the design development workshop was finished in July. In other words, it all moved at a rapid but deliberate pace. LOCATION: 2515

Privacy remains a sensitive issue with regards to the larger community because outside residents sometimes treat the privately owned cohousing community as a public space. At times, cohousing residents need to remind their neighbors that walking through the community grounds is like walking through a private yard. LOCATION: 2546

the front porch (and the back deck, too) had to be wide enough to furnish one side of the door with a small table and three to four chairs, and provide an area to store things like snow shovels on the other side of the door. LOCATION: 2575

New Urbanists feel that a cohousing group might slow them down, LOCATION: 2585

I’m an accountant and we discovered you have to have 25 to 30 families to make it work financially. LOCATION: 2633

Cooking is my favorite activity here. We had to learn about cooking too much or running out of food and it took us a whole year to learn how to cook for all these people. LOCATION: 2644

But now it’s no big deal nor does it cause stress or anxiety. We know who the good cooks are and put at least one on every team. LOCATION: 2646

His colleague Mortimer Adler started discussion groups on great books, such as The History of Natural Philosophy, LOCATION: 2672

His wife and other cohousers were there at his moment of death. It was a sad, good death. LOCATION: 2674

Create places that help us slow down LOCATION: 2703

the day of Bellingham Cohousing’s grand opening is here. The speeches are inspired and fun. LOCATION: 2706

The Bellingham residents wanted their common house to accommodate dancing, and after the opening dinner they danced — and again the night after. LOCATION: 2710

founding members of Bellingham Cohousing, Marinus VanDeKamp and Irene MacPherson, LOCATION: 2712

Independently, we both came to the same conclusion: the group needed more extroverts. LOCATION: 2724

project at the city level. Also attending the slide show was Virginia Thigpen, a developer with West Davis Associates, a company that was planning a 110-acre subdivision on the edge of town. LOCATION: 2848

In choosing to work with a developer, the resident group was able to bypass the one to two years most groups need just to find and secure a site. LOCATION: 2856

The group constantly struggled to ensure that their opinions were taken into account on basic decisions and the developer, under their interpretation of what would build the project quickly and keep the budget low, expressed impatience with the group decision-making process. LOCATION: 2861

Without a common set of agreed-upon design criteria for the site, they had nothing on which to base a critique. LOCATION: 2866

McCamant and Durrett Architects to start over, and to facilitate a programming progress and develop conceptual designs, which the local architect would then complete. LOCATION: 2867

Muir Commons residents. Acting as facilitators, The Cohousing Company LOCATION: 2883

The 26 two- and three-bedroom units range in size from 800 to 1,400 square feet. Residents own land in front and back of their units and share ownership of the common outdoor space and facilities. LOCATION: 2906

Over half of the residents qualified for subsidies from the developer or second mortgages from the city to enable them to afford to purchase their home. LOCATION: 2907

The Muir Commons residents agreed upon a clear program of goals and priorities for the use of the site and a well-defined list of spaces to meet those goals before any site layout was drawn up. LOCATION: 2910

the participants identified all of the activities they wanted to incorporate on the site, outlining detailed needs for each activity. LOCATION: 2911

When they had been asked to evaluate designs previously without a program, the ensuring discussions had been inconclusive and random. Once the group had a solid program on which to base their design decisions, they could reach agreement and present a united opinion to the architect and the developer. LOCATION: 2925

Daniel, a parent of two young children, remarked on what a difference living in a cohousing community made: Every morning the kids wake up early and fly out the door to play with their friends. They can’t wait to get out of the house; the TV is completely forgotten. LOCATION: 2930

It took a while to get used to, to learn how to live in, this environment. Do I have to say hello every time I walk by people, or is it okay to keep to myself sometimes? LOCATION: 2936

My son had to learn that it’s all right for him to say that he just wants to play by himself sometimes. LOCATION: 2938

Many cohousing communities have the policy with a private party to open it up to the community after 10 p.m. — it gives the party a new life (or in some cases, any life at all). LOCATION: 2945

Many of these issues are resolved without formal policy; residents have found that their respect and concern for each other guide their actions. LOCATION: 2946

To minimize the disruption to their lives, the group determined that two days each month would be set aside for tours. A list of guidelines for visitors was established and posted in the common house. LOCATION: 2950

In the common house, bulletin boards are neatly divided into sections for meal sign-up and announcements, committee agendas and minutes, community activities, and items of general interest. LOCATION: 2952

Meals are available in the common house several times a week, with an average of 50 percent of the residents participating on any given night. LOCATION: 2954

Muir Commons Committees Communications: Oversees media and public relations as well as ensuring the smooth flow of communications within the community. LOCATION: 2966

Governance: Oversees the management of the community. LOCATION: 2970

Meals: Ensures the smooth provision of five meals each week. LOCATION: 2974

Community Spirit: Plans social events and celebrations. LOCATION: 2975

Coordinating Committee: Includes one member from each of the above committees; oversees the smooth running of the community and sets the agenda for common meetings. LOCATION: 2976

We are delighted when our fellow cohousers have social events here, which may be why you are visiting today. You will probably want to know the guidelines we have for ourselves and others in this building and on the Muir Commons grounds, so we list them below: LOCATION: 2980

The resident group had spent hours prior to the meeting attempting to address the neighbors’ concerns, inviting them to view the site and the plans and soliciting their input, so they were astonished at the attack. The neighbors argued that the project would unbearably increase neighborhood density and traffic, and that the proposed parking for the development — one space per dwelling — was not sufficient to meet its needs. LOCATION: 3056

When I first learned of the project I was up in arms. I fought the project and, in fact, I was the lead organizer to counter the development. We had fears of traffic, noise, density, and loss of privacy. LOCATION: 3070

One site in particular, owned by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, met many of the group’s criteria. The group spent months considering the feasibility of the site, talking with neighbors, consulting with professionals, and working with us. By the time the redevelopment agency issued a request for proposals to develop the site, the group was ready to act. LOCATION: 3221

Dealing with so many government agencies and departments often proved frustrating, and probably added at least a year to the development process. At times, residents felt like adversaries of the redevelopment agency, not partners. LOCATION: 3327

They passed out cohousing information to every member of the redevelopment agency, the planning department, and the city council, and still they encountered resistance. LOCATION: 3330

the city reevaluated its policies, placing a higher priority on housing. Suddenly, there was a breakthrough in the negotiations, and the whole process became easier. LOCATION: 3331

The group also requested variances to reduce on-site parking requirements (to one space per unit). The community had a strong argument for this because it is located just a few blocks from a major transit stop and BART LOCATION: 3635

The Role of the Developer LOCATION: 4328

Expertise — understands the development process, risks; ability to quickly sort out the biggest obstacles for a specific property. LOCATION: 4330

Project management services — provides day-to-day coordination of all development work, including assessing feasibility, coordinating consultants, LOCATION: 4333

a majority of cohousing communities in the United States have been created through joint ventures between for-profit developers and resident groups. LOCATION: 4341

Leach’s “Streamline Cohousing Development Model” shares risks and financial reward between the community and the developer. LOCATION: 4343

Resident groups often think they can save money by being their own developer and cutting out the developer fee or profit margin. This savings has generally not materialized. Quite often, the opposite is true — these communities have taken more time to build and have tended to pay more because of the inefficiencies in their development process. LOCATION: 4354

A few communities have been created by buying up homes in an existing neighborhood and tearing out the back fences to open up shared spaces. N Street Cohousing in Davis, California, and Temescal Creek and Temescal Commons in Oakland are examples of this. These retrofit communities tend to be smaller, often growing organically over time. LOCATION: 4376

N Street has grown from four homes in 1989 to fourteen homes with a common house in 2010. Organizer Kevin Wolfe attributes some of their success to working within a neighborhood that had a large number of rental homes, and thus more turnover at affordable prices, so that the community could get households who wanted to be part of the community to purchase homes as they became available. LOCATION: 4379

primary advantage of the retrofit model is the ability to locate within an established neighborhood. In many cases, buyers can move into existing units in a shorter timeline. The downside is that it may be impossible to secure land to create a larger community. LOCATION: 4384

In others, the group begins by establishing goals and objectives, sometimes meeting for years before identifying a site. LOCATION: 4404

Getting Started • Get the word out to find others interested in creating a cohousing community in your area • Establish an organizing group • Agree on general goals, location, and financial expectations, including a vision statement • Select a professional team — developer or project manager, architect, attorney, etc. LOCATION: 4406

Draw up legal agreements for partnership or joint venture arrangement LOCATION: 4419

Design and Construction Documents • Develop schematic design proposal • Obtain planning approvals • Complete design development • Secure construction financing LOCATION: 4420

Obtain building permits • Solicit and negotiate construction bids • Select contractor • Finalize construction contract, loan, and schedule LOCATION: 4425

expect housing prices will be similar to other new housing in your area (it’s not generally cheaper), LOCATION: 4438

Many a cohousing group has started with a core group of five to fifteen households who define general goals, identify a site, and establish financial expectations. After these decisions have been made, other people can decide if they are interested in the project. Indeed, as a project becomes clearly defined, more people are attracted to it. LOCATION: 4449

You need at least one burning soul who really wants to live there to carry a project through. If you have one to four burning souls, then there is no problem. Others will become interested when it begins to smell like something real. LOCATION: 4452

Facilitation of the meeting • Making your point clearly and concisely • Ending meetings with clear decisions about what will be done and by whom • Distributing responsibilities so that everyone can participate and no one is overburdened • Making sure everyone’s opinion was heard LOCATION: 4469

A committee is where the work gets done, so that each one can present options and recommendations at the community meetings, where most decisions are made. LOCATION: 4482

Process • Finance and Legal • Membership • E-communications • Social • Coordinating or Steering • Community Relations • Design and Construction LOCATION: 4484

Minimum responsibilities after moving in LOCATION: 4508

(Our worst fears are generally those we have not discussed.) LOCATION: 4515

you may want to have a committee research different options (especially the experiences of other communities), which they can then present to the larger group. LOCATION: 4516

the group does not need to agree on how each of these issues will be addressed, but it is helpful to record the different opinions expressed in the meeting minutes. LOCATION: 4517

an individual’s non-negotiables often change quite radically as he or she gets more comfortable with the community LOCATION: 4519

keep a database of your members’ individual site criteria, priorities, and non-negotiables. LOCATION: 4537

The purchase option “ties up” the site for a period of time so that no one else can buy it while the group researches its feasibility for the proposed project and seeks planning approvals. LOCATION: 4546

These are the key roles you’ll want to identify early on (ideally before you begin looking at properties): • Project Manager • Attorney • Architect • Process Consultant LOCATION: 4554

Architect Consulting an architect familiar with cohousing is very helpful in assessing the feasibility of a property for your community. Will zoning allow your proposed use? How many homes will be allowed? How many parking spaces will the city require? LOCATION: 4590

sorting out those who are serious from those who are still just curious observers. (Observers may be allowed to participate, but have no vote LOCATION: 4608

Community Characteristics Elements that emphasize the social aspects of community are of highest priority. LOCATION: 5051

In fact, the success of a cohousing community depends upon the “common” realm — the places where residents come together for socializing, creating, or just saying hello. These everyday acts are what keep residents connected. LOCATION: 5053

If a community is too big it will have an institutional feel and will lack the intimacy required to make its residents feel as if they have a stake in its success. If a community is too small, it will resemble a large family rather than a neighborhood of actively engaged households. LOCATION: 5060

Medium Cohousing Developments (16 to 25 households). When asked about size, residents of medium-sized cohousing developments usually thought their own was close to perfect. LOCATION: 5075

But planning approvals and financing arrangements are also more complex for large projects, which are also more likely to attract neighborhood opposition, further slowing the approval process. In fact, we do not recommend that a resident organizing group attempt to build a community of this size without collaborating with an experienced developer and a very experienced architect. LOCATION: 5086

All of the cohousing developments we know in Denmark and the Netherlands larger than 34 dwellings have been divided into small clusters. In Tinggarden in Denmark (79 units), clusters of 12 to 15 households share a common house. The largest cohousing development in Denmark, Bondebjerget (80 units), is divided into four groups with four completely separate common houses. LOCATION: 5089

In cohousing, a certain density — usually at least six to seven units per acre and often ten to fifteen — creates enough density so that people feel like they are part of a neighborhood, LOCATION: 5097

In urban areas, the density could easily be 60 units per acre or more, assuming that a high-rise could have a cohousing community per floor, or one per couple of floors. LOCATION: 5099

three to five plans per project is more common and fits the various needs much better. In general, we consider houses for small families, couples (young and old), a few units for singles (young and old), and some flats on a single-floor that will be helpful as the resident group matures and the need for handicap-accessible units arises. LOCATION: 5109

There are several examples in this book of cohousing communities created from rehabilitated buildings. In each case, the cohousing project injected new life into an otherwise unused or under-populated area of a town or city. This is true of both Doyle Street Cohousing in Emeryville, California, and Swan’s Market Cohousing in Oakland, California. LOCATION: 5130

Most units have second-floor sleeping lofts tucked under the original metal trusses. The building is in downtown Oakland and a ten-minute walk from public transportation to San Francisco and Berkeley. LOCATION: 5148

In Denmark, Jernstoberiet Cohousing exemplifies the conversion of a mid-twentieth-century industrial building. To create the residential units, the original iron foundry was renovated into 21 residential units. The main hall of the foundry was preserved to create an enclosed, interior street, with the main entrances to individual homes off this court. A common house was also added to the site. LOCATION: 5149

opportunities will there be for casual interaction? LOCATION: 5163

children be able to play safely LOCATION: 5164

open spaces allow for a variety of activities LOCATION: 5165

pedestrian paths encourage engagement without sacrificing privacy LOCATION: 5166

relationship of the common house, private houses, and parking facility provide for easy mobility without sacrificing safety or LOCATION: 5168

Soft edges or semi-private spaces, such as gardens, landscaping, and porches, help create an intermediary zone between private space and the public realm. LOCATION: 5171

At the same time, cohousing communities tend to have more life, and therefore a little more noise. It is important to locate common activities with a respect for surrounding neighbors LOCATION: 5195

“The beauty of cohousing is that you have a private life and a community life, but only as much of each as you want.” — cohousing resident LOCATION: 5197

The courtyard gives the sense of a common square with centralized activity, while the street lends itself to dispersed gathering spots. LOCATION: 5209

While a central courtyard can create a lively space where activities co-exist, it must be small enough not to leave an open void that detracts from the sense of community. LOCATION: 5210

People rarely have the option of interaction when houses are scattered around the site and connected by multiple pathways, since no single route gets used enough. LOCATION: 5214

utilizing infill sites (Emeryville and Swan’s Market cohousing in the northern California) LOCATION: 5738