Author Topic: Interested in Co-Housing?  (Read 4688 times)

BuildingFrugalHabits

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Interested in Co-Housing?
« on: October 16, 2016, 11:56:58 AM »
I've seen quite a few threads about the ideal place to FIRE and lately, we've spent a lot of time thinking about it ourselves.  The dream has always been to build something zero-energy and live more congruently with the land so to speak.  "Earthships" are a great example of this ideal. 

I've noticed that many of these values are shared my others on the site. It makes me wonder if there would be interest in starting a cohousing intentional community for those who value respect, the environment, outdoor recreation and frugality. 

Cohousing isnt a novel concept but I was pretty unfamiliar with it until recently.  This article sums it up pretty nicely: http://www.harmonyvillage.org/About/RicksTravels/RicksCohousing.htm

Theres also been some discussion on these boards that I could dig up:
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/unusual-housing-questions/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/intentional-community/

There is a spectrum of togetherness that ranges from a standard neighborhood to a full blown hippie-commune.  I like the sound of the eco-village personally but I think its all about finding a balance between collectivism and rugged individuality that works for all participants.  I think the practical aspects of sharing some resources outweigh the trade-off of increased accountability and having to trust other humans.   

If the community was for FIRees with flexible geographic requirements, an appropriate location could be selected to maximize proximity to first class outdoor amenities but where housing prices haven't already gone through the roof and property taxes are low.  Combining resources in a smart way to leverage economies of scale opens many options:

Potential Ideas:
   Common indoor space for hanging out and socializing
   Guest rooms.  This reduces the requirement to keep extra space for the occasional house guest.
   Lending library for books and tools
   Occasional shared meals: Those who are interested in partaking and rotate prep and cleaning so were all cooking less often.  The units could have basic kitchen while the common kitchen would be restaurant quality.
   Community solar to provide 100% electric needs. A community well or water catchment system to hedge against increasing energy and water prices.
   Community open space. Land conservation / preservation could be a founding principle. i.e. purchase a ranch in Colorado and put the majority to land into conservation easement.
   Community garden, orchards, bees, chickens.
   Some shared gear: bikes, kayaks, camping and climbing gear etc.
   A few community vehicles: Since most of our cars stay parked all the time anyways.
   No mean people allowed.  Seriously, people should like and respect each other (or at least pretend to).

Obviously these are just off-the-cuff ideas and I know that these types of arrangements arent for everyone (they probably don't work for most people).  Again, I think its all about striking a good balance.  Id love to hear thoughts from our Mustachian Community, especially those who would be interested in establishing something in the Western US.  If this is already underway and just let me know how to get in on it. Maybe we should start a directory of potential cohousing projects in various states.  Building a community from scratch could be a lot of work but could turn out to be really cool as well. 

nobodyspecial

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2016, 03:48:15 PM »
Fairly common here in the pacific northwest we looked into one being built locally.

In general they are great ... but...

Smaller/cheaper seemed great given the housing cost in this city. But - cost is all in the land, less sq ft of interior space didn't make much difference and since everything had to be architecturally designed, green certified, sustainable sourced etc the build costs were quite a bit higher. The cost/unit ended up being slightly more than a larger typical suburban house.

Mix of people is difficult. Given the costs and location (away from transit so land was cheap) it mainly attracts empty-nest retirees cashing in on the city house price boom. They object to the noise/damage to the gardens of young children so families don't buy in. If not careful it can turn into an assisted living facility without the assistance!

Zoning rules are inflexible. Plans were to have cycle paths and shared bikes, but building permits required a minimum number of parking spots per occupant so its hard to prevent it looking like a mall parking lot. Same with water usage. Plans for grey water recycling and low energy usage but city assumes the consumption of a 2500 sq ft McMansion for each unit. So you have to run in massively over specified services sufficent for an entire subdivision.



 

BuildingFrugalHabits

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2016, 07:16:44 PM »
Yeah, I could see how zoning would be an annoyance. Ideally, I'm thinking that a smaller town or biking distance to one would be sweet.  Long term plan is to slow travel for a while but always sort of have a home base to come back to.  It would be great to downsize our footprint, and proportionately, our housing costs to allow more money to go towards travel. The possibilities are mostly centered around condos but co-housing would bring more of the social aspects that I would like to see and potentially a better cost optimization if done right. 

Typhoid Mary

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2016, 07:35:41 PM »
Would love co-housing except the whole "other people" part of the equation. Serious introvert here, married to a borderline hermit introvert. We live in the suburbs of a small city, and even with fences and separate houses and garages it can still feel overwhelming to have so many neighbors so close. I love your ideas though. It would be awesome to have individual earthship type homes around the perimeter of a giant rectangular property with all of the "shared" stuff in the dead middle, that way you could retreat back to your perimeter if you needed to. A giant commons area in the middle could house the commercial kitchen, garden,etc while the edges would be the "safe" are for those of us who need to hide away sometimes.

geekinprogress

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2016, 07:55:05 PM »
This is something I'm interested in doing locally, starting with a nucleus of friends/acquaintances, in the 5+ year range. 

Everything I've read (and the few conversations I've had with folks about it) suggest that it's definitely a lot of hard work, but that the payoff in terms of lifestyle and community can be great.  For an overview of how a variety of communities came together, what makes them unique, and what life is like in them, I recommend Creating Cohousing (I got it on both Kindle and in paper on Amazon; the image quality isn't great on kindle but it turns out it's not super great in the paper copy either). 

bobechs

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2016, 08:08:50 PM »
Would love co-housing except ...

It would be awesome to have individual earthship type homes around the perimeter of a giant rectangular property with all of the "shared" stuff in the dead middle, that way you could retreat back to your perimeter if you needed to. A giant commons area in the middle could house the commercial kitchen, garden,etc while the edges would be the "safe" are for those of us who need to hide away sometimes.

This already exists.  Has existed for centuries, for that matter.

It's that socially self-indulgent  and fundamentally morally suspect "marriage" thing that's going to trip you up joining this type of intentional community...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavra

expatartist

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2016, 08:49:38 PM »
I met the founder of a successful artists studio complex in Chicago. No question, zoning is an issue. But with the right goals and partners, and in the right area, it is possible.

This already exsts.  Has existed for centuries, for that matter.

It's that socially self-indulgent  and fundamentally morally suspect "marriage" thing that's going to trip you up joining this type of intentional community...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavra


Fascinating.

Langer83

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2016, 12:03:40 PM »
Your proposal sounds great. Have you seen this co-housing directory?
http://www.cohousing.org/map

There might be something forming that fits the bill.

BuildingFrugalHabits

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2016, 07:14:07 PM »
Your proposal sounds great. Have you seen this co-housing directory?
http://www.cohousing.org/map

There might be something forming that fits the bill.

Yeah I've seen that directory before.  There's a couple decent places but unfortunately nothing for sale.  There's few that are forming but they are so expensive that obviously aren't catering to my cheap ass. And there's a few that are basically glorified assisted living. I was picturing more of a multi-generational place where you've got young single types, families and older folks all living together, learning from each other with some degree of inter-dependence. 

nawhite

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2016, 09:07:57 AM »
If you're willing to give up the constructed house, we've seen some campgrounds that basically are the mustachian version of this dream. One we stayed at for a week had sites for $7k with $500/quarter in maintenance dues. They had a lot of common areas (pool,hot tub, dining hall, river access, sports fields etc) communal events (dinners, movie nights, ice cream socials) and a couple people got free lodging for doing communal maintenance.

Some people had just built "houses" on their sites but most were RV spots.

Definitely worth looking into for the mustachian way to do it with current zoning.

myrax

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2016, 10:24:32 AM »
Zoning is a huge issue for this type of community- but it doesn't have to be. Most zoning codes are quite out of date and were essentially copied from other towns or standard sets of codes. If you want to build something like this in the community you live in, start looking for the people who are probably already working on changing zoning and start helping to get things changed.

Detroit's "Pink zone" where they are trying to reduce the red tape of bureaucracy is an interesting model for getting massive zoning changes. Several towns and cities are also reducing or eliminating parking minimums because of local advocates and developers fighting the policies. People who build or live in tiny houses usually deal with a lot of zoning issues too.

The Incremental Development Alliance (http://www.incrementaldevelopment.org/) offers boot camps around the U.S. where they teach people how to read and essentially work around code.

BuildingFrugalHabits

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2016, 02:22:04 PM »
If you're willing to give up the constructed house, we've seen some campgrounds that basically are the mustachian version of this dream. One we stayed at for a week had sites for $7k with $500/quarter in maintenance dues. They had a lot of common areas (pool,hot tub, dining hall, river access, sports fields etc) communal events (dinners, movie nights, ice cream socials) and a couple people got free lodging for doing communal maintenance.

Some people had just built "houses" on their sites but most were RV spots.

Definitely worth looking into for the mustachian way to do it with current zoning.

Hmmm, this sounds like an intriguing idea... since we are already planning to be quasi-nomadic in our camper.  We could cash out the house still keep a home base & community in one of these areas for potentially a lot cheaper than a traditional home.  Since it sounds like you're traveling through some great areas, maybe you could post some link love for places you've visited with good ju-ju.




arebelspy

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2016, 03:42:40 AM »
Yes.  Very interested, and following!
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

nawhite

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2016, 11:49:01 AM »
If you're willing to give up the constructed house, we've seen some campgrounds that basically are the mustachian version of this dream. One we stayed at for a week had sites for $7k with $500/quarter in maintenance dues. They had a lot of common areas (pool,hot tub, dining hall, river access, sports fields etc) communal events (dinners, movie nights, ice cream socials) and a couple people got free lodging for doing communal maintenance.

Some people had just built "houses" on their sites but most were RV spots.

Definitely worth looking into for the mustachian way to do it with current zoning.

Hmmm, this sounds like an intriguing idea... since we are already planning to be quasi-nomadic in our camper.  We could cash out the house still keep a home base & community in one of these areas for potentially a lot cheaper than a traditional home.  Since it sounds like you're traveling through some great areas, maybe you could post some link love for places you've visited with good ju-ju.

We don't often stay in RV resorts so I don't have many but the one I was talking about in my post above was https://www.thousandtrails.com/oregon/bend-sunriver-rv-campground/ which was a great spot (though the sewer system was out of commission which made permanent structures less viable). You'll see a lot of similar places in Florida but Bend, OR was pretty great.

begood

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2016, 02:16:39 PM »
I love living "in community", so this idea is very appealing to me. I especially like the idea of a common shared area with private smaller residences in proximity. The best of both worlds!

electriceagle

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2016, 02:32:50 PM »
Zoning is a huge issue for this type of community- but it doesn't have to be. Most zoning codes are quite out of date and were essentially copied from other towns or standard sets of codes. If you want to build something like this in the community you live in, start looking for the people who are probably already working on changing zoning and start helping to get things changed.

Detroit's "Pink zone" where they are trying to reduce the red tape of bureaucracy is an interesting model for getting massive zoning changes. Several towns and cities are also reducing or eliminating parking minimums because of local advocates and developers fighting the policies. People who build or live in tiny houses usually deal with a lot of zoning issues too.

The Incremental Development Alliance (http://www.incrementaldevelopment.org/) offers boot camps around the U.S. where they teach people how to read and essentially work around code.

If you try to do this in a small municipality, you can set up meetings with members of the city council and make your case for zoning changes.

Goldielocks

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2016, 03:10:57 PM »
I looked into buying one of these shares / homes back in 2008.  Two were for sale, but they cost a lot more than modestly sized homes in the nearby town.  Why? 

Because since they were built, the 15-20 acres of land has gone up in value, and you have to buy out someone else's share.  It was an originally lower cost land, next to the ocean / creek, but when land increased, so did the share price.  or the price per sq.ft was always quite high.  (Completed project in 2004)

BUT, they have no plans to sell off or use the land in other ways (forested now), so there is no hope of recouping your investment until you sell it to someone else..   a catch 22.

That said, it is apparently quite popular.

http://www.robertscreekcohousing.ca/

Link to Canadian Cohousing properties (13)

http://cohousing.ca/places/completed-communities/
« Last Edit: October 24, 2016, 03:18:08 PM by goldielocks »

nobodyspecial

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2016, 09:02:00 PM »
Zoning is a huge issue for this type of community- but it doesn't have to be. Most zoning codes are quite out of date and were essentially copied from other towns or standard sets of codes. If you want to build something like this in the community you live in, start looking for the people who are probably already working on changing zoning and start helping to get things changed.

Detroit's "Pink zone" where they are trying to reduce the red tape of bureaucracy is an interesting model for getting massive zoning changes. Several towns and cities are also reducing or eliminating parking minimums because of local advocates and developers fighting the policies. People who build or live in tiny houses usually deal with a lot of zoning issues too.

The Incremental Development Alliance (http://www.incrementaldevelopment.org/) offers boot camps around the U.S. where they teach people how to read and essentially work around code.

If you try to do this in a small municipality, you can set up meetings with members of the city council and make your case for zoning changes.
That was the problem here. The people interested in the co-housing were typical BANANAS (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) who had objected to disturbing so much as a blade of grass to extend the school.

But were in front of the town council basically saying that the bylaws shouldn't apply to them because they weren't "developers"
 

bacchi

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Re: Interested in Co-Housing?
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2016, 09:31:54 PM »
I looked into buying one of these shares / homes back in 2008.  Two were for sale, but they cost a lot more than modestly sized homes in the nearby town.  Why? 

Because since they were built, the 15-20 acres of land has gone up in value, and you have to buy out someone else's share.  It was an originally lower cost land, next to the ocean / creek, but when land increased, so did the share price.  or the price per sq.ft was always quite high.  (Completed project in 2004)

BUT, they have no plans to sell off or use the land in other ways (forested now), so there is no hope of recouping your investment until you sell it to someone else..   a catch 22.

Could the development rights be sold off in order to reduce the land value?

You're right, though. The big problem with these is trying to sell them. It's a narrow audience, which would mean a loooong sales period. Intentional communities can also have inflated "bad neighbor" problems where the obnoxious neighbor is seen each day/week during meals and at meetings.