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Making cohousing affordable: Strategies and successes, part 1 of 3

by Betsy Morris, Coho/US Research Director

A glance at a detailed map of U.S. cohousing communities would show that most of us are living in areas of relatively high property values: on the coasts, in college towns or on the outskirts of high-tech growth centers. That’s one reason why making cohousing affordable to the widest possible number of people has been of intense interest to prospective community members throughout the history of the cohousing movement.

Eco-community: Cohousing that preserves green space

by Michael Blate, The Woodlands at DeerHaven Hills

Cohousing can serve a variety of purposes and take different forms. But one exciting approach is a hybrid of cohousing and the ecovillage – what I call an eco-community. Here your monthly mortgage payment does double-duty. Not only do you create a new cohousing community, you also help the environment immediately around you. You might get a spectacular park or forest for your backyard, to boot. It can be a win-win situation for everyone.

To boldly go: Visitability in cohousing

by Eleanor Smith, East Lake Commons

When our community, East Lake Commons, held its first formal meeting in 1997, one of the first official decisions was that all the units would be designed with two features making each home “visitable” by members with mobility impairments: at least one entrance with zero steps, and at least a half-bathroom on the main floor, with a door wide enough for wheelchair passage.

Grassroots financing

by Rick Mockler, CoHousing Partners

Cohousing has matured in many respects since it immigrated to the U.S., but none so much as the development structures or the financial savvy of cohousers themselves. Since future residents expect to be involved in the design of the future neighborhood, the instruments for conventionally financed development don’t always work in the same way. Consequently, in the process of learning about real estate development and financing, cohousers are reinventing them.

Getting started: The first eight steps

by Rob Sandelin, Sharingwood Cohousing

These are some of the elements to consider working on in the first months you spend together. This assumes you have brought together a core group of at least two or three households. Three or four households is even better.

Cohousing and Renewable Energy: Leading the Way toward Zero-energy Homes

by John Parsons

This year’s National Cohousing Conference was a treasure trove of useful information for established cohousing communities and forming groups. One of the more visionary, yet practical, sessions was a presentation on renewal energy led by Mark Daugherty, energy systems consultant and chief technology officer for Great Lakes BioFuels in Madison, WI, and Bryan Bowen, a Colorado-based architect, specializing in low-impact, environment-friendly housing design. Attendees learned about some sobering trends on peak oil and global warming, along with positive steps that cohousing communities are uniquely qualified to take.

Stepping stones to sustainability

by Liz Walker, photos by Jim Bosjolie

This is a historic moment on Planet Earth. Life as we know it is about to change dramatically as global climate change accelerates, and as we reach “Peak Oil,” when demand outstrips supply for fossil fuels that are increasingly hard to extract. As we look toward a future in which our traditional energy sources are severely depleted, cohousing neighborhoods have an increasingly important role to play in modeling a greener lifestyle.

Retrofit cohousing: A different kind of fixer-upper

by Karen Hester, Temescal Creek Cohousing

In March 1999, after only three months of meetings, a group of five families opened escrow on Temescal Creek Cohousing, a "retrofit" cohousing neighborhood in Oakland, CA. They're called a retrofit community because they transformed an existing neighborhood into a cohousing community, rather than building from the ground up.

Working with a local project manager

by John R. McCarthy, project manager, Oak Creek Commons

I actually had no experience with cohousing when members of Oak Creek Commons first approached me about the possibility of becoming the project manager for their community. The group already had worked for about a year with a professional whose offices were outside of the area, but had discovered they needed a local, hands-on project manager who could navigate them through the many steps of constructing their new community.


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