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Cohousing : an alternative approach to dwelling in British Columbia Williams, Dan 1994

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COHOUSING: AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACHTO DWELLING IN BRITISH COLUMBIAbyDANIEL GEORGE WILLIAMSB.Sc., The University of Victoria, 1980M.Div, Regent College, 1986ThM., Regent College, 1991A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(School of Community and Regional Planning)We accept this thesis as conformingto the requi ed standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAJune 1994©Daniel George Williams, 1994Signature(s) removed to protect privacyIn presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment ofree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of CGrTmunity ri Rj-ni 1’IOflnirThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDateDE-6 (2188)Signature(s) removed to protect privacySignature(s) removed to protect privacySignature(s) removed to protect privacySignature(s) removed to protect privacyiiABSTRACTAs elsewhere, British Columbia faces a challenge of how toprovide livable, affordable, safe housing for all in the faceof public funding cuts. Cohousing may provide one solution.This study begins by analyzing various definitions ofcohousing, then develops, on the basis of European and localexperiences, four definitional criteria for distinguishingcohousing from other shelter options. It is proposed that theterm “cohousing” be limited to housing that involves: jointownership of common property combined with individual equityin private dwelling units; resident group decisions on design,management, and the shape of common life among the residents;design that facilitates both private living and shared space;and reliance on mainly private rather than public resources.The study then analyzes the potential of cohousing to meetB.C. needs by considering the constraints and opportunitiesfacing its development, under headings derived from theadopted definition of cohousing, namely: organization(legal/financial/group process), design, and governmentrelations. The study primarily draws on interviews withleaders of cohousing projects and government officials relatedto housing, as well as literature on the experience of othercountries with cohousing. Each chapter ends with a strategicchecklist for planners in the public or private sphere toconsider in their facilitation of cohousing. The concludingchapter draws the constraints and opportunities into thecontext of the possible future for cohousing in B.C.iiiTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract iiTable of Contents iii1 Introduction to the Study 11.1 Purpose 11.2 Outline of Issues Related to Cohousing 11.3 Definition 31.3.1 Differences in the Literature 31.3.2 Distinguishing Cohousing from Other Housing 51.3.3 Definitional Conclusion 81.4 Scope 111.5 Methods and Sources 132 Rationale for Cohousing 152.1 Cohousing: Pros and Cons for the Consumer 152.1.1 The Appeal of Cohousing 152.1.2 The Impediments to Cohousing 172.2 Cohousing and the Public Good 192.2.1 The Governmental Perspective 192.2.2 The Social Perspective 202.2.3 The Sustainability Perspective 212.2.4 The Global Perspective 222.3 The History of Cohousing 242.3.1 Ancient Antecedents 242.3.2 Europe 262.3.3 United States 282.3.4 British Columbia 312.4 Cohousing and Affordability 323 Organization in Cohousing 373.1 Introduction 373.2 Legal Concerns 393.3 Legal Solutions 413.3.1 Legislative Frameworks 413.3.2 Lender Relationships 433.3.3 Legal Agreements and Group Values 453.4 Financial Concerns 483.5 Financial Solutions 493.5.1 Initial Costs 493.5.2 Development Planning 503.5.3 Land Acquisition 503.5.4 Construction 533.5.5 Maintenance 543.6 Group Process Concerns 553.7 Group Process Solutions 573.7.1 Group Size 573.7.2 Membership and Planning 583.7.3 Voluntary Commitments 603.7.4 Substance of Group Process 603.7.5 Professional Assistance 613.8 Summary 61iv4 Design of Cohousing 644.1 Introduction 644.2 Design Concerns 654.2.1 Cluster Housing 664.2.2 Medium-Density Housing 684.2.3 European Cohousing 694.2.4 Analysis 714.3 Design Solutions 734.3.1 Private, Self—sufficient Units 744.3.2 Extensive Common Areas and Facilities 834.3.3 Overall Design Promoting Community 864.3.4 Secondary and Tertiary Solutions 954.4 Summary 965 Government Facilitation of Cohousing 1005.1 Introduction 1005.2 Local Government Concerns 1025.2.1 Context: Self-Help Housing and LocalGovernment 1025.2.2 Cohousers’ Perspective 1045.2.3 Local Government Planners’ perspective 1065.3 Provincial Government 1075.4 Federal Government 1085.5 Summary 1106 Conclusion 1126.1 Provisions for Cohousing in B.C. 1126.1.1 Organization 1126.1.2 Design 1136.1.3 Government 1156.2 Prospects for Cohousing in B.C. 1176.3 Cohousing and the Next Century 121Categorized Bibliography 123General Cohousing Overviews 123Cohousing Background and History 123Cohousing: Organizational Matters 124Cohousing: Design Principles 124Cohousing: Governmental Relations 125Interviews with Cohousing Practitioners 126Consultants 126Vicinia Members 126Cohousing Newsletters and Advertising 1267 Appendices7.1 Interviews 1277.1.1 With Local Cohousers 1277.1.2 With Local Planners 1347.2 Collateral Resources on Cohousing Organization 1367.3 Sample Organizing Agreement for a Cohousing Group 1387.4 Local Government and Affordable Housing 1407.5 A Lobbying Strategy: Recommendations to LocalGovernment 14211 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY1.1 PURPOSEThis study analyzes the constraints and opportunities facingcohousing in British Columbia, providing a framework for thedevelopment of this relatively new shelter option in theprovince.1.2 OUTLINE OF ISSUES RELATED TO COHOUSINGThis first chapter discusses definitional issues related tocohousing, specifically answering these questions:a. What is meant by cohousing? What range of definitions isgiven to cohousirig?b. Is it merely a new name for an existing form of shelter?c. If not, how does it differ substantially from other formsof housing?Chapter 2 is concerned with general questions related to themotivation and existing practice of cohousing, specifically:a. Why bother with cohousing anyway?b. Where has it been done?c. Where is it being done in B.C.?2Chapter 3 is concerned with organizational matters flowingfrom the definition of cohousing adopted in this study. Theconcerns are divided into three categories: legal, financialand group process.Chapter 4 is concerned with the design constraints andopportunities arising with cohousing. Notwithstanding theunique features of cohousing, we will see that design lessonsfrom other forms of housing can be applicable to cohousing.Chapter 5 is concerned with governmental factors that comeinto play with cohousing. If, as we shall put forward,cohousing by definition should represent private or self-helpinitiatives, then what role, if any, does the public sectorplay?At each stage we will be answering the question: what are theessential features of cohousing that determine theopportunities and constraints of which planners of cohousingmust always be aware? These features will be summarized instrategic checklists at the end of chapters 3-5 and thenbrought together in a concluding chapter on the provisions andprospects for cohousing in B.C.31.3 DEFINITIONIn approaching cohousing, the issue of definition is not assimple as one might like. There are two problems:differences in the literature and a deficiency in settingcohousing apart as a unique form of shelter.1.3.1 Differences in the LiteratureNaturally, one must begin with the authors who coined the term“cohousing,” Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett. First, itshould be noted that their definition is inductively derived.They identified four characteristics of community-basedhousing developments they studied during a research tour inEurope:a. participatory process of planning and design by futureresidentsb. intentional design of neighbourhood or communityc. extensive common facilities, especially a dining areaci. complete resident management (after moving j)•1It is also clearly assumed in the book that all cohousingdevelopments have private, self-sufficient dwelling units foreach individual or family in residence.1 Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, ,oh ising..;a.ç jçj.g iv (Berkeley, CA:Habitat Press, 1988), pp. 10, 36.4A more recent text on cohousing, Dorit Fromm’s •o 1jab.ti.vti.es seems to acknowledge the need for definitionsdirectly by means of two glossaries at the end.Unfortunately, the author ends up creating some confusion interminology. Whereas the subtitle of the book (“Cohousing,Central Living, and Other New Forms of Housing with SharedFacilities”) seems to list cohousing as ,çe type ofcollaborative community, the glossary provided in the booksuggests that collaborative housing and cohousing areThe essential design characteristics identifiedthere for this type of housing are: “common areas andfacilities--with rooms for shared cooking and dining--combinedwith private self-contained units (including private bathroomsand kitchens).”2 Other features mentioned are governance andmaintenance by residents and an emphasis on community.Although there is no explicit mention of design promotingneighbourhood, this definition is substantially in agreementwith McCamant and Durrett.However, Fromm goes on to differ in other details. Forinstance, in some contexts the author is prepared to relax therequirement for common dining and therefore common diningfacilities.3 Also, Frornm, under close examination, seems tomake participation in design and building on the part of2 Dorit Fromm, C.1 i..aho iv rn..iti.es (New York: VanNostrand Reinhold, 1991), p. 269.3 Ibid., p. 2.5residents only an ppj,jn for cohousing, though a highlyrecommended option.4 Finally, Fromm, unlike Mccamant andDurrett, defines cohousing as necessarily including anintergenerational mix.5Before reconciling these differences, it is important to beclear what a definition of cohousing does r.Qt include. Bothof the sources already mentioned agree that cohousing is nottied to any particular size, design or building type, orownership structure.6 McCamant and Durrett are also clearthat construction by residents is only an option.7Are the essentials of cohousing as suggested in the literatureenough to distinguish it from other established forms ofshelter? There is a need for definitional clarity.1.3.2 Distinguishing Cohousing from Other HousingDefinitional clarity is needed first to ensure that in talkingabout cohousing we are not just using a new name for an oldconcept. Much of what McCamant and Durrett or Fromm label ascohousing seems to be nothing new. For example, if, followingFromm, design by a group is eliminated as an essential, thencohousing is not much different than any rnjxjw. ordevelopment built on speculation. Such developments4 Ibid.5 Ibid., p. 269.6 McCamant and Durrett, p. 16; From, p. 2.7 McCamant and Durrett, p. 166.6invariably include internal management structures and commonareas (including cooking and, potentially, dining facilities),and so would qualify as cohousing under Fromm’s definition.But why suggest with a new term that we are dealing withsomething new, when the form of housing in mind is actuallywell-established? If the project is a condominium and nothingmore, then one should simply call it that and consult therelevant literature on condominiums in one’s planning.Likewise, if the definition of cohousing is not uniquelyformulated then a so-called cohousing project may very well beidentical to:a..gx.ah.Qu Fromm defines congregate housing as acombination of small living units and common spaces withsupport services available from a staff to help residents, whooften are impaired or elderly.8 In fact, Fromm explicitlystates in her definition of cohousing that support servicessuch as child and elder care can be included in some cohousingdevelopments. Supposing, for sake of argument, thatcongregate housing residents are consulted in some way aboutdesign and management, then the only thing really marking thisform of shelter off from what McCamant and Durrett wouldusually call cohousing is that congregate housing (which wouldinclude group homes in North America) is usually owned byprivate or public agencies. In other words, to be explicit8 Fromm, p. 269.7about ownership is vital to the definition lest one ends upwith a form of housing quite different from what most wouldunderstand as cohousing.b. ,Lsbisi .QQra.tjy jjjg (which,conceivably, can incorporate a resident design process, andwhich always involves group management). Again, the onlything that might distinguish cohousing from this well-knowncategory is the concept of occupant-ownership. Furthermore,if the units are owned by the whole group rather than byindividuals, then cohousing is really not different than themodel of shelter one could call. h.jdie..d (.mark.Qaijg, which has existed for years in NorthAmerica.c. ha jjjg, where several people rent or buy a housetogether. If such housing involves a mixture of owner-occupants and renters, then it may just be a sophisticatedform of h.Q.a cIjg. Private, self-contained units ispotentially the factor that could set cohousing apart at thispoint.d. like the kibbutz of Israel? Cohousing so-calledmay verge on such communities if use of common areas,participation in common life, and group management do not havea certain voluntary character among the cohousing members.8The point of inquiring whether cohousing is distinguished fromthese other forms is simply to ensure that we are not justinventing a new name for an existing idea. New names for oldconcepts create confusion and inefficiency in communication,research and planning.The second reason for definitional clarity, i.e. agreeing on anew label, is that if there is a unique combination offeatures that has not been named other than cohousing, thenthis combination is worth studying to determine its potentialto make a difference in the current housing market. In otherwords, the shelter option that “deserves” the new name ofcohousing probably should have all the features that will beidentified below in order to really have a fresh impact inBritish Columbia.1.3.3 Definitional ConclusionFor the purpose of this study, the definition of cohousingwill draw more from McCamant and Durrett than Fromm. Inparticular, active involvement of residents in design will beconsidered a necessary part of cohousing. Resident groupdesign could be related to conversion of an existingstructure, e.g. a condominium, into a cohousing complex. (Infact, McCamant and Durrett themselves live with othercohousers in a converted warehouse. If the final decision of9“conversion cohousers” is to make few or even no physicalchanges, then that still represents a group design process.)Before drawing a definitional conclusion, we need to considerwhether a “limited equity” rider should be built in to everyviable cohousing charter. Limited equity refers torestricting resale profits (e.g. to some agreed measure suchas a cost-of-living index) so that the second and subsequentgenerations of purchasers still realize a savings over land-market rates. In other words, it is a scheme designed toperpetuate an affordability factor. It is true that (as willbe seen below) both the Danish experience and at least onelocal project have emphasized the limited equity approach. Itis also arguable that the “community spirit” essential tocohousing can be best sustained when such social conscienceand personal sacrifice is woven in to the founding charter.There is no doubt that governments would be more amenable toprojects ensuring an ongoing affordability bonus (or at leastprofit-limitation). However, as this thesis is focusing moreon private practice than public policy, and as bothaffordability and the mechanisms to maintain community lifeare open to debate, we have decided to leave out limitedequity as an essential of cohousing for now. However, itremains a strong and worthwhile option to consider, and aleading possibility for amendments to the cohousing definitionin the future.10Taking together the practice of what some have calledcohousing to date, the need for distinguishing cohousing fromother existing shelter options, and some size considerationsthat will be more fully explored in chapter 3, the definitionof cohousing which will guide this study is as follows.Cohousing describes a living arrangement involving:a. joint ownership of common property and some kind ofindividual equity in private dwellings.b. a resident group sized and committed to make collectivedecisions on design, development (financing, propertyacquisition and construction, as necessary), management(membership and maintenance concerns), and opportunitiesfor voluntary common life.c. a design embracing private, self-contained units inconjunction with common areas and facilities, thearrangement of the whole contributing to community orneighbour I mess.d. a largely private rather than public initiative.9McCamant and Durrett1° are not as strict with conditions a. ord., but, for reasons given above, condition a. seems criticalin distinguishing cohousing from other existing forms ofcollective housing. The rationale for d., focusing on private9 Although with some possibilities for public sectorfacilitation, as will be seen in chapter 5.10 McCamant and Durrett, p. 43.11rather than government initiatives as an essential part ofcohousing if it is to serve as a breakthrough in BritishColumbia, will become clearer by the end of the thesis.1.4 SCOPEThe “why” of cohousing, that is, a rationale for its absoluteadvantages and its relative importance compared with othertypes of housing will be argued in the next chapter in termsof the attractiveness of cohousing for consumers andgovernments. Likewise, the “where” and “when” of cohousing,its location and history to date, will form a brief focus atthe start of the study. This material is intentionallyabbreviated as the main aim of the study is to provide auseful clarification of the issues and a checklist ofresponses for those already largely convinced about the valueof cohousing.This bulk of the study, then, focuses on the “how” ofcohousing, i.e. answering the question: what do groups orfacilitators need to be concerned with in the development andoperation of cohousing in British Columbia and similarjurisdictions? The real task is adaptation of the model tothe North American setting. In fact, excellent reviews ofcohousing for the U.S. market have been provided first byMcCamant and Durrett and even more fully by Fromm. The12ultimate aim of this study is to provide the basis forplanning specifically tailored for British Columbia cohousing.The primary focus is on implementing the ofcohousing as suggested in the preceding definition, that is,covering the legal and nonlegal aspects of organization(definition element a. and b.), followed by design aspects(definition element a.), and ending with governmentalrelations (definition element d.). Secondarily, the keythat can be considered by the cohouser will beexamined, as well as relevant insights from other housingtypes that can be applied to cohousing.Private practice rather than public policy will be the mainemphasis throughout, though, in examining relationshipsbetween cohousers and governments (especially local ones),avenues for public sector encouragement of cohousing willbecome clear. These avenues will be noted in chapter 5, with“lobbying strategies” for cohousers to adopt with localgovernment consigned to one of the appendices. Prospects forcohousing development in the current B.C. environment will befound in a concluding chapter.131.5 METHODS AND SOURCESRationales for cohousing (derived in chapter 2) were based ongeneral housing literature. An overview of the advantages andissues of cohousing were discovered through logical extensionfrom the definition as well as through the experience found incohousing literature, the two main sources already having beencited above, and through interviews with early practitionersfrom this region. The interviewees are listed in theAppendix.11 Newsletters and prospectuses of cohousing groupsalso provided helpful background information.The case studies provided in the key cohousing literatureoffered the most extensive insight into the organizationalconstraints derived in chapter 3. Although not treated as anin-depth study, the experience of Providence ShelterCorporation and its project called Vicinia (what will likelybe the first true cohousing project built in Vancouver), willform an appropriate local context for the discussion. Severalpeople involved with the founding and development of Viciniawere interviewed.12 These interviews especially helped toillustrate the group process constraints associated withcohousing.11 Interviews were held in November, 1992.12 Interviews were held in the summer of 1993, justbefore the Vicinia project began excavation. The intervieweesare listed in the Appendix.14For the discussion of design in chapter 4, relevant insightsfrom other housing types were sought out through selectedliterature. However, this chapter’s approach is. primarily adeductive extension of the design portion of the cohousingdefinition adopted above.In addition to the interview sources already mentioned forchapter 2, government representatives and documents wereconsulted to discover more about the public role in cohousing.Interviews were specifically conducted with municipal plannersfrom Delta.13 The results of this research comprise chapter 5.13 Interviews were held in November, 1992. Theinterviewees are listed in the Appendix.152 RATIONALE FOR COHOUSINGBefore embarking on a detailed study of how to make cohousingoperational in British Columbia, it would be good to establishwhether the trip will be worth making. Why, in fact, mightpeople be interested in cohousing? What has been the range ofexperience to date? Will interest and experimentation incohousing be likely to grow in British Columbia in the nearterm? Answers to each of these questions are provided brieflyin this chapter.2.1 COHOUSING: PROS AND CONS FOR THE CONSUMERThe definition of cohousing selected to guide this study (see1.3.3) implies both positive and negative motivators forindividuals and groups to join in creating cohousing. In whatfollows, we will essentially be answering the question: forwhat kind of person might cohousing work?2.1.1 The Appeal of Cohousinga. ,çQmbjp,eI . The fact that a larger piece ofproperty and more amenities can be enjoyed through poolingresources in an organized group will be a positive feature ofcohousing for many people. If an absolute economy forcohousing can be demonstrated, i.e. if units are available at16less than market rate for equivalent accommodation in noncohousing projects, then affordability will be a strongattractor for future residents (see section 2.4 below).Residents with a social conscience will even be moreinterested if some limitation on equity is in place so thatthe affordability factor is maintained in perpetuity.Affordability actually remains a moot point. This will bediscussed more fully below.b....r..up pro A group process for making finance, designand management decisions will appeal to many who like groupsand processes and who are determined to have an opportunity toinfluence their living environment in a direct and detailedway.c. .Ciz.a ivD.e The possibility of design that embracesall members’ values will be of interest to anyone wanting infact to express their values. Typical “expressed values” seenby McCamant and Durrett in the European cohousing worldincluded: ecological sustainability (e.g. energy efficiency,solar power, bicycle repair shop); caring for children safelyand creatively (e.g. playgrounds and daycares); and communityeconomic development (e.g. on-site stores and restaurants).1Abov.e all, people will be attracted to cohousing if they areattracted to the social life engendered by common facilitiesand grounds and the intentional neighbourhood design.1 Kathryn l4cCamant and Charles Durrett, •ohoisinmp r.y a,c ii t.c Ho j,g Q,u.r,s.e Lve (Berkeley, CA:Habitat Press, 1988), chaps. 4-11.17d. jjj,,-,Q Those with a self-help rather than publicsubsidy orientation will definitely find cohousing a congenialassignment, especially if they are the rare types also like to“break new ground” in dealing with public officials for zoningand building approvals (a challenge with which many cohousinggroups have struggled). Furthermore, the appeal ofhomeownership over renting remains compelling for many.2.1.2 The Impediments to Cohousinga. .0 z.a j.n 1 jJy. Beginning to look at thereverse of each motivator above, it is possible that certainpeople will be daunted by the thought of caring for a piece ofproperty larger than a residential lot or for specialfacilities more elaborate than a garden shed. Also, therewill be those put off by the complexity of share transfers inprivate companies (where rules can even restrict transferthrough inheritance) and the potential difficulty of resalegiven the relatively unfamiliar model of cohousing.b.. Group processes definitely do not appeal tosome people either because of bad experiences or a sense ofpersonal inadequacy when it comes to making contributions to agroup. As well, many will realize that group processes, evenwhen they are happy ones, take an extraordinary amount oftime--especially when compared to simply searching for andpurchasing a private dwelling, or even building a house on18your own. The planning for one project in the United Statestook 135 meetings!2c. rnjnunjJy. People may not be drawn to cohousingbecause they are not convinced they will be able to findothers who share their design values--and they are not surethey want to embrace the values of others. In particular,they may be lukewarm or even antagonistic about the idea ofsome sort of common life or neighbourhood, or they may beexcessively worried about what friends and extended familywill think about their “communistic” lifestyle. In the end,there are those who may quite simply not feel that stronglyabout creative design; for such folks, traditional housingoptions will probably be more attractive.d. I .Jiipf.1.. The people who tend to not be self-starters or entrepreneurial will probably not gravitatetowards cohousing. Put differently, people who feel they donot even have the minimal amount of time and money needed tolaunch and complete a cohousing project will likely turn togovernment-sponsored shelter or (if they can afford it)private housing as a first choice. Philosophically, thosewith a penchant for a social welfare system might even besuspicious of the equity control enjoyed by cohousers (therich getting richer?) and the excuse that cohousing activitymight provide to governments wanting to bow out of socialhousing programs. On the other hand, some who might otherwisebe attracted to the sense of being a homeowner might not think2 Dorit Fromm, Vol1aczati.ve uun.t,es (New York VanNostrand Reinhold, 1991), p. 98.19that the cohousing option, with its somewhat curtailed privacyand freedoms, is much of a psychological advance over renting.2.2 COHOUSING AND THE PUBLIC GOOD2.2.1 The Governmental PerspectiveAgain, the definition grid for cohousing provides a startingpoint for positing why governments might be interested in thiskind of shelter option:a. governments generally might like the efficiency factorinvolved when they can work with groups; furthermore, theymight like the social stability and prosperity that presumablyaccompanies home ownership, though they probably would findany limited equity schemes even more attractive than open-ended plans that only benefited the first generation ofowners; if cohousing is more affordable than comparable markethousing then any government will most likely be veryinterested in being supportive (see below on the affordabilityquestion).b. governments, especially local ones, generally areinterested in anything that increases a sense ofneighbourhood; access to common facilities by the widercommunity would be a bonus in their eyes; if present and20actualized, values such as ecological living seem to beincreasingly attractive to all levels of government.c. governments might be attracted to projects that avoidsubsidy funding; on the other hand, all levels of governmenthave land potentially available for leasing to creativehousing projects.The three things that might cause governments to shy away fromcohousing are the spectre of social enclaves developing(especially if the housing turns out to be only for thewealthy), design creativity conflicting with zoning andbuilding codes, and any perception that public funds are evenindirectly subsidizing market, for-profit housing.2.2.2 The Social PerspectiveWhat about social goods defined beyond the immediategovernment perspective? Marcus and Dovey identify four socialissues addressed simultaneously by cohousing:3a. •ç uDi.t y iha.zc.c; here is their observation aboutEuropean examples: “Most successful schemes have incorporatedspatial features that enhance casual neighbouring, and theparticipatory process used in the design is itself a strong3 dare Cooper Marcus and Kim Dovey, “Cohousing--AnOption for the 1990’s,” f siy Lchi±iu 6 (1991):113.21foundation for future community.” Learning to share, tocompromise and to identify values beyond consumption arecritical elements towards building a sustainable society.b. .chagjn.g graph.y....a rather than open-planranch houses too large for the growing contingent of singleperson, single-parent and elderly homeowners, cohousing canoffer a variety of housing options and dwelling sizes.c. hU.dx ma in safe precincts with specialfacilities and plenty of playmates and sitters nearby.d. especially for the single mother benefitingfrom c. above and for all men and women working side-by-sideon communal cooking (if it exists) and maintenance.The social good of affordable housing is not on the list forMarcus and Dovey, because they are not sure the facts supportit (see more on this topic below).2.2.3 The Sustainability PerspectiveBeyond the social realm just noted, the sustainabilitybenefits of cohousing in economic and ecological terms arepotentially tremendous, though the final extent of these andthe consequent attractiveness to governments remain largely upto the desires of the particular cohousing group.22As well as group-specific features such as providing bicyclerepair shops, common vehicles, and other encouragers of low-impact lifestyles, resources are generally conserved throughsmaller dwelling units, shared appliances and (whereapplicable), more efficient communal growing and eating offood.2.2.4 The Global PerspectiveA wider debate has been happening in the circles involved withso-called self-help housing, especially in the Third Worldcontext. Although a world apart from the self-help associatedwith cohousing groups in the industrialized world, it may beuseful to list the social criticisms leveled by academicsagainst self-help housing (also known as the informal sector)in developing countries. For example, Peter Marcuseidentifies ten problems with self-help housing:a. it cannot substitute f or indispensable resources like land,materials, expertise and infrastructure.b. it cannot deal with problems of resources allocationrequiring centralized planning.c. it is likely to produce only temporary solutions.d. it provides no learning mechanism, no context for progressin housing from project to project over time.23e. it is inefficient because of the inexperienced personnelinvolved.f. it is economically regressive, the better off being able togain more through their efforts than the poor.g. it will lower housing standards as the cheapest availablematerials will tend to be used.h. it can be politically reactionary, distracting from thekind of political action required to improve housing.i. it can be socially divisive, elevating individualimprovement over collective activities.j. it exploits the labour of its participants.4It is clear that few of these criticisms apply to cohousing inthe developed world, though e. and f. may apply within thecontext of the middle-class cohousers described in section3.6, wrestling with their long, sometimes frustrating planningprocess, but still with much greater means at their disposalthan those below the poverty line. For the most part,however, cohousing may be seen as an antidote to the problemsof individual, self-built shelter. This becomes clear inMarcuse’s prescription for mitigating the worst features ofcurrent Third World self-help approaches:4 Peter Marcuse, “Why Conventional Self-Help ProjectsWon’t Work,” in De.y.Q ..tzL&p Jusi.ig, ed. Kosta Mathey(London: Profil Verlag, 1992), pp. 16-21.24a. collective, rather than individual, self-help;b. limited equity ownership, with rigid resale and rentalcontrols;c. a collective democratic decision-making structure, open toothers seeking housing;d. a non-exclusive structure involving those in need ofhousing but not participating in the immediate project;e. a strong association with a social movement or politicalgroup focused on influencing governmental actions..5Cohousing fits at least part of this list remarkably well,with the expanding network of cohousing enthusiasts (describedbelow) even showing promise for the broader activitiessuggested under d. and e.2.3 THE HISTORY OF COHOUSINGBased on the appeal and in spite of the impediments, cohousinghas enjoyed a brief but significant history to date.2.3.1 Ancient AntecedentsAlthough the indebtedness is not always explicit, cohousing isa reflection of a number of earlier housing types. Theultimate forerunner of cohousing actually goes back to one of5 Ibid., p. 21.25the earliest settlement patterns, namely, the model of villageplus commons. Here is how Lewis Mumford described this typeof living arrangement:The village, in the midst of its garden plots and fields,formed a new kind of settlement: a permanent associationof families and neighbors, of birds and animals, ofhouses and storage pits and barns.... Before the citycame into existence, the village had brought forth theneighbor: he who lives near at hand, within callingdistance, sharing the crises of life, watching over thedying, weeping sympathetically for the dead, rejoicing ata marriage feast or a childbirth.6Apart from the agricultural references, I4umford could bedescribing the experience of many cohousing groups. Ruralcontexts do not provide the only antecedents for cohousing.Small city neighbourhoods where residents depended on eachother for support existed less than a century ago.7Every aspect of the cohousing definition and practice has in asense been borrowed from other sources. In this way,cohousing represents a unique composite of shelter strategies.Legally and financially, condominiums have often provided amodel. In terms of group process, communes such as thekibbutz of Israel and sectarian groups such as the Hutteritehave offered inspiration. Design for a combination of privacyand neighbourliness was anticipated by urban low-rise grouphousing which has a history dating back many centuries.8 The6 Lewis Mumford, (San Diego, CA:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1961), pp. 13-15.7 Elena Marcheso Moreno, “Cohousing Comes to the U.S.,”hit...tir (July 1989): 64.8 Hubert Hoffmann, Raw,..,., .u.&n Ci.t kIQ1a.eSmt Su.v.ey (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967),pp. 10-12.26sharing of common facilities also has a long pedigree, beingfound in apartment hotels and collective houses on both sidesof the Atlantic since the turn of the century.9 Finally, theincentive and pattern for self-help initiatives can be tracedto the prolific and varied cooperative movement.2.3.2 EuropeThe precursors to European cohousing can be seen in theutopian ideals of nineteenth-century housing reformers.Norbert Schoenauer has suggested that the age ofindustrialization produced a different response in the NewWorld as opposed to the Old when it came to housing reform.Americans, he says, focused on mechanization in the drive toproduce the “servantless” house, whereas Europeans emphasizedcentralization, pooling resources into collective householdservices that removed domestic drudgery.1°The earliest experiments date to 1832 in France.11 There weretwo English prototypes in the early 1900’s, but the fullflowering came about under the leadership of a Dane, OttoFick.12 His “collective house” was built in 1903. It had noless than 27 common rooms for collective services to 26apartments, providing everything from a central kitchen9 Karen A”•.• Franck and Sherry Ahrentzen, eds., Ii.w.Jiew jjg (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold,1991), pp. 4, 50, 54.10 Ibid., p. 47.11 Ibid., p. 48.12 Ibid., p. 54.27(delivering food by a dumbwaiter system) to a laundry.Interestingly, Fick had some of the same financingdifficulties which can plague cohousers today. In the end,the municipality of Copenhagen had to hold the first mortgageon the property, and construction was financed on acooperative basis.In spite of the problems, Fick’s model was emulated all overEurope. Early examples can be found in Germany, Switzerland,Austria and Sweden.13 As for the sphere of tenant-planned andmanaged multi-story buildings, there are many examplesthroughout Europe (in both new developments and restoration ofold buildings); both local and state governments have beensupportive 14Scandinavian soil has proven particularly fertile for thedevelopment of collective approaches to living, though thelarge-scale projects that have been developed in modern times(sometimes with over 1300 units) have become too institutionalfor many people’s tastes.15 The smaller Swedish connnunalapartment houses that were developed in the 1970’s as aresponse begin to approach the cohousing model, though theaspects of a group design process and individual orcooperative homeownership were largely missing from thesegovernment-sponsored projects.16 Cohousing “proper” (i.e.13 Ibid., pp. 55-59, 63.14 Mathey, pp. 41-42.15 Franck and Ahrentzen, p. 69.16 Ibid., p. 72.28closely following our definition) actually developed in the1970’s in Denmark. By 1988, 67 cohousing communities had beenbuilt in Denmark (most since 1982) and 38 more were beingplanned.17 The first communities were motivated and madeentirely by residents. Soon, nonprofit housing developers andassociations became involved, and the national governmentbegan to be supportive. Legislation passed in 1981 made itpossible for housing cooperatives of at least eight units toapply for a lower-interest government-sponsored loan.’8Today, cohousing is a mainstream shelter option in Denmark,and fast becoming the same in other countries. By 1991,Marcus and Dovey were reporting that there were about 200functioning cohousing developments in Northern Europe.’92.3.3 United StatesCollective (and, later, cooperative) apartment houses werecommon in American cities in the nineteenth century. Considerhow modern-sounding the amenities were in Chicago’s so-calledJane Club, opened for single female workers in 1898: itboasted a dining room, central kitchen, laundry room and abicycle and trunk storage room.20 The many experiments withcollective living waned when single-family detached dwellingsbecame affordable to many after World War II. Contrary to the17 Ibid., p. 96.18 Ibid., p. 102.19 Marcus and Dovey, p. 113.20 Franck and Ahrentzen, p. 4.29impression given by McCamant and Durrett,21 the Americans havenot exactly been waiting around for cohousing to be importedfrom Europe. In fact, Dorit Fromm lists several examples ofcooperative housing (one dating from 1939) which incorporatecohousing elements. One project is described in detail, alimited equity housing cooperative in Santa Rosa, California,that was occupied in 1982 after a five year planning,financing and building process.22 Further, Karen Franckdescribes a Portland, Oregon, community which finishedconstruction in the late 1970’s and truly manifests all theelements of European cohousing except daily common meals (theresidents only meet weekly).23 Nevertheless, it may be fairlysaid that with the publishing of McCamant and Durrett’s casestudy of Danish cohousing in their 1988 book, and thebeginning of their cohousing consultancy out of Berkeley,California, a new wave of interest has developed. The firstnew-construction cohousing community emerging out of this waveopened in Davis, California, in 1991. It has 26 units and acommon house on a 2.8-acre suburban site.24Whereas the Davis group used a developer, the first (at leastaccording to its own publicity) self-developed cohousingproject was completed in April, 1992, on Bainbridge Island,21 Ibid., p. 121.22 Fromm, p. 98.23 Franck and Ahrentzen, pp. 16-17. Fronim also providesa case study of this group.24 Marcus and Dovey, p. 113.30near Seattle, Washington.25 The group there had the benefitof one of its residents being a development consultant.Marcus and Dovey also identify two other projects beingcompleted in California by 1992: a converted warehouse and adowntown row house scheme.26 California seems to beparticularly inclined towards housing experiments. DoritFromm suggests this is because of the “impoverished communaland social life, and the resulting claustrophobic pressures oneach isolated nuclear family, offered by the suburban tractsthat sprawl across the state.”27 However, the idea ofcohousing has spread to many other areas, from Seattle to NewEngland, from the Southeast to Alaska.Marcus and Dovey counted over 100 groups debating goals andlooking for land by 1991.28 This is an amazing change in justtwo years, from the date of the Moreno article in chitwhich could not identify one cohousing proposal underway.2925 .ree ch Vol. 1, Issue 1 (September1992).26 Marcus and Dovey, p. 113.27 Dorit Fromm, “Californian Community,” hi..t...e ua1i.w 189 (Aug. 1991): 80.28 Marcus and Dovey, p. 113.29 Moreno, p. 67.312.3.4 British ColumbiaCohousing has arrived in British Columbia from across the U.S.border and appears to be gathering momentum. The first “coregroup” (a cohousing interest group) formed an association inJanuary, 1991. This group, dubbing itself Windsong, bought afive-acre site in Langley in March, 1993.° At the same time,an education and facilitation group has formed in B.C. calledthe The Coflousing Network, B.C. Chapter (formerly CascadiaCohousing Society/International Cohousing Society). Theirfirst newsletter reported that six new core groups have formedin different parts of B.C.31 The local network iscommunicating with other cohousing animators in Canada,including an active society in Toronto. An umbrellaorganization called The Cohousing Network puts out a 20-pagequarterly called So far, McCamant and Durrett havebeen heavily involved in these efforts. However, it isinteresting to note that an entirely separate stream (havingno contact with the foregoing initiatives or players), hasemerged from an innovative housing consultancy calledProvidence Shelter Corporation. Under its guidance, twomulti-story projects, one housing a seniors group (TheTillicum) and the other intergenerational (The Vicinia--Latinfor neighbourhood), will be finished on the westside ofVancouver in 1994. (As will become clear in chapter 4, there30 ccj •jjjg (Newsletter of the CascadiaCohousing Society), Vol. 1, Issue 1 (Spring 1993).31 Ibid.32is nothing inherent in the adopted definition for cohousingwhich precludes a multi-story design.) In both cases, thegroups are acting as their own designers and developers. Asubstantial savings over market rate has been promised.32Whether this is in fact achievable remains open to question,as we will examine in the next section.2.4 Cohousing and AffordabilityThe issue of affordability in cohousing is both a critical anda complex one. Affordability of housing is a prevalent andconstant social topic today. A task fueling the discussion isdeciding exactly what affordability means. One definitionmight test whether homeownership in a particular area ispossible for a certain income level--but this begs thequestion of whether downpayments are within reach and whatdebt levels are appropriate for an individual or family.However, affordability can also be measured in terms of whatone’s housing dollar is able to buy. As architectureprofessor Karen Franck notes: “The economic advantage ofcollective housing is primarily the opportunity to haveamenities that might be difficult for single households toafford, such as darkrooms, workshops, one or more guest rooms,or very large living rooms.”3332 Providence Shelter Corporation prospectuses.33 Franck and Ahrentzen, p. 6.33A local cohousing project, the Vicinia has put affordability,defined simply as housing priced below market rate for anarea, as a centrepoint in their advertising. On the otherhand, the North American gurus of cohousing, Mccamant andDurrett, recently stated that there should be no expectationsthat cohousing can be built for less than market rate in NorthAmerica.34 More recently, Marcus and Dovey have concurred:“Indications are that cohousing does not reduce the cost of anew home, since reduced carrying and marketing costs, and anonprofit approach, are offset by the cost of the common houseand the increased costs of professional services engendered bythe consensus decision-making process.”35 Apart from thespecial situation of third party grants or investment(including favourable leasing terms), the experts may have acase, at least based on the experience in Denmark as noted byMcCamant and Durrett: “Although earlier cohousing groupsattempted to keep prices below market rates, many haddifficulty designing within their original budgets.”36 Infact, budget control only came in when the Danish governmentset limitations on the residential units that would qualifyfor cooperative financing. Therefore, “previous criticisms ofcohousing as a high-priced option out of reach of commonpeople no longer hold true.”3734 Notes from a lecture (Burnaby, Nov. 18, 1992). KarenFranck, writing in New B. eJiQ1cts, Nw p. 6, agrees:“The actual cost of a dwelling unit is not likely to bereduced in collective housing; in many cases it is the same asor higher than the cost of conventional apartments or houses”.35 Marcus and Dovey, p. 113.36 Mccamant and Durrett, p. 161.37 Ibid., p. 145.34One key variable in the affordability formula revolves aroundthis question: are unit sizes and costs per square metrebeing limited? Smaller, simpler units of course have a directbenefit of affordability to the resident, but they also affectcost indirectly. The point is that smaller units can usuallymean more units (as long as open space and shared facilitiesare not too lavish), producing an economy of scale whenconstructing common buildings. The second key affordabilityvariable is: how much work are the cohousers willing to putin? This work is sometimes called “sweat equity.”Clearly there are direct savings if one can eliminate theprofit margin charged by a developer or general contractor, ordo some construction work as a group.38 The Vicinia claims tobe coming in at 20 percent below market rate, and that abouttwo-thirds of this saving can be traced to not having adeveloper involved.39 There have also probably been somesavings on marketing and real estate fees when compared withnormal apartment buildings. However, the Vicinia has not yetbeen built, and the opening date has recently been delayed byseveral months.38 Even savings during development planning can besubstantial. According to McCamant and Durrett (see p. 56),thousands of dollars were saved by one Danish group when theyborrowed an old blueprint machine and reproduced some 50,000construction drawings for the bidding process.39 Interview with Craig Vance, Providence ShelterCorporation, Vancouver, B.C., 27 February 1992.35It remains to be seen whether the third great variable withaffordability will take a toll. This variable is simply thequestion of time. The longer that interest (or lease)payments are being made on an uncompleted site, the moreexpensive it becomes. Also, delays can discourage a group,leading to defections and slower recruitment, and thuspotentially higher marketing costs. Delays are more likelywith larger projects (McCamant and Durrett define this as over35 units, so the Vicinia would fit such a pattern). Planningapprovals, financing arrangements and neighbourhood oppositionare all usually more complex with a larger project. TheVicinia has experienced all of this, perhaps causing them toconsider the advice given by l4cCamant and Durrett: “wegenerally do not recommend that a resident organizing groupattempt to build a community of this size withoutcollaborating with an experienced developer.”0Finally, entry affordability can be created by lowering front-end costs, either for all members (e.g. leased land combinedwith a long-term sinking fund) or for certain members (e.g.those who pay less downpayment into a cooperative mortgage).In spite of all the obstacles to affordability, after almostthree years of planning, Windsong is still predicting lowerthan market costs.4140 McCamant and Durrett, p. 157.41 FQj (Newsletter of the CascadiaCohousing Society), Vol. 1, Issue 3 (Fall 1993).36Whatever the conclusion on affordability, with the kind ofearly cohousing activity described in 2.3.4, one might ask:What are the prospects for cohousing in British Columbia inthe next few years and beyond? The balance of this thesiswill attempt to answer this question in terms of exploring theconstraints and exploiting the opportunities inherent in ouradopted definition of cohousing. The concluding chapter willdraw the main factors together in the context of the currentBritish Columbia housing scene.373 ORGANIZATION IN COHOUSING3.1 INTRODUCTIONThis chapter will address three sets of opportunities andconstraints arising directly from the first two definitionalcriteria of cohousing adopted at 1.3.3, namely:a. structuring joint ownership of conunon property combinedwith individual equity in private dwellings (largely a legalconcern); the issue of membership will be included under thiscategory, though membership also has obvious connections togroup process (see subsection 3.7.2).b. managing development and maintenance financing;consideration of approaches to property acquisition andconstruction will take place under this category, though thesetopics naturally have design implications as well (see chapter4), and they touch on governmental concerns (chapter 5).c. handling group process, if indeed there is anything uniqueabout the dynamics of a cohousing group.These three areas of concern are brought together in thischapter because of their obvious interrelationships. Thelegal is inevitably entangled with the financial side ofcohousing, and group process is largely spent on these38matters, at least in the early stages of a cohousingdevelopment. Legal and financial arrangements have an impacton how the cohousing group operates in making decisions.One may ask: why begin this cohousing study with legalagreements and financial matters? One reason is that theseconcerns do indeed arise very early in the history ofcohousing groups. McCamant and Durrett note: “Before a groupcan proceed very far in the planning process, it must giveserious consideration to its legal organization and individualand shared liabilities.”1 The confidence level of members,consultants, bankers and realtors alike increases dramaticallywhen a cohousing group becomes a legal entity.The constraints and opportunities, and suggested solutions,will be drawn from research on European and U.S. models, localinterviews (see Appendix 7.1), and some collateral sources onhousing and ownership (see Appendix 7.2).1 Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, hjg...,,t.JLci.sing Qjy (Berkeley, CA:Habitat Press, 1988), p. 162.393.2 LEGAL CONCERNSSimple analysis combined with reviewing the experience ofEuropean cohousers suggests that the type of legal glueholding a cohousing group together must satisfy three basictests:a. it falls under an umbrella of relevant legislation andregulations.b. it facilitates the lending required for development.c. it fulfills the values and goals of the cohousinggroup.The only exception to test a. would be if the cohousing groupwanted to “break new ground” and attempt to have newlegislation passed. This (long and uncertain) process wouldbe beyond the average cohousing group.Test b., satisfying private lending institutions or publicfunding sources, will always be a consideration (unless thecohousing group is completely self-financing, a situation thatis hard to imagine other than in the case of seniors with lotsof equity). In some cases and at certain times, banks andcredit unions are prepared to be creative. On the other hand,they can also be very conservative, for example, not beingwilling to provide individual mortgages at good rates formembers of a housing corporation.40The import of test c., maintaining the values of the group,will vary widely depending on the types of values in view.Examples of values that could influence the shape of a legalagreement are:--distinguishing serious members from the casual or curious.--maintaining a smaller planning group deliberately untildevelopment decisions are substantially completed.--not trying to solve every part of the final agreement atthe start (i.e. only creating legal structures asnecessary).--breaking down barriers that come with individualism by nothaving strata titles and therefore sharing liabilitycompletely (this becomes a question of choosing themechanism to define the individual equity attached toprivate dwellings).--limiting the equity that can accrue to individual members(e.g. preserving a “social dividend” of affordabilitybeyond the first generation).--managing the transfer of shares or title strictly(including through bequests).--having only general principles written down in the finalagreement as compared with more detailed by-laws.Of course, the precise principles and by-laws in the finalagreement that encode these values can vary from group togroup.413.3 LEGAL SOLUTIONS3.3.1 Legislative Frameworks (Test a.)The natural first question for a cohousing group to considerin defining its legal structure is: What is possible undercurrent legislation in the jurisdiction where the developmentwill occur? For example, in Denmark, the homeland ofcohousing, policy has been in place since 1981 that providesloans for new construction to any housing cooperative of atleast eight units. The effect of the Cooperative FinancingLaw was to reduce the initial investment and monthly mortgagepayments. To qualify, a cooperative had to cap constructioncosts as well as limit average unit size (to 95 squaremeters). Residents received the tax advantages of ownership,but their equity growth is limited by the government, equityincreasing only by the published rate of general inflationrather than by speculative land market rates..2Similar limited-equity cooperatives are legislated now in theUnited States. For example, California limits equity on theresale of units to an annual appreciation (in 1988, set by lawat 10 percent per year) in return for some public subsidieswhich reduce down payments.32 Ibid., pp. 141-142.3 Ibid., p. 202.42In British Columbia, the three basic legislative umbrellas forcontracts allowing equity appreciation on individual units andjoint ownership of common property would bepartnerships/companies, cooperatives, and strata corporations(condominiums). Companies could either be for-profit or actas a nonprofit holder of land that is leased back tohomeowners at perpetually affordable rates (speculation andabsentee ownership being proscribed by charter). The so-called Community Land Trust is an example of the lattermodel.’ The main difference between cooperatives andcompanies is that the former always are structured around aone-member-one-vote system rather than around power beinggeared to the number of shares held by an individual.5 As forstrata corporations under the. mjnjua, they replacedthe market housing groups once structured under the2c..t.6 Condominiums are preferred bymost buyers over cooperative arrangements because of theeasier and clearer procedures for resale. Such resale is awholly private and well-understood conveyance not open toscrutiny by the other residents in the complex; furthermore,the buyer can get normal private mortgage financing notavailable to the purchaser of shares in a cooperative.4 See h .cQiwjtx Lai it1Ihck (Institute forCommunity Economics);. tin ajand 1zs..t uid.au.,...Qanjiaticm (Alexandria, VA:Land Trust Alliance, 1990).5 See Section 27 of B.C. ‘s , ,a.tji.jjpn act.6 See Part 2, “Housing Cooperatives.”433.3.2 Lender Relationships (Test b.)Each model for legally linking cohousing group members has itsadvantages from a financing viewpoint. In British Columbia,the process of securing mortgages on strata units is routinelyhandled by all major lending institutions. On the other hand,a corporation could attract favourable interest rates on acombined mortgage (i.e. a “volume” deal), as long as aprogressive lender was prepared to risk funds on a relativelynew housing type. McCamant and Durrett are cautiously hopefulin this regard: “The first American cohousing groups mustconvince banks that they can handle problems of long-termmanagement; once a number of cohousing developments haveproven this, financial instituti.ons may actually preferlending to them.”7Furthermore, a corporation or cooperative with attractivesocial values in its charter (e.g. limited-equity schemes)might garner government involvement (e.g. Central Mortgage andHousing Corporation, or CMHC) that provides the kind oflender-confidence that leads to better mortgage interestrates, or even produces special grants to offset certainconsultant and other start-up fees. The Vicinia developmenton W. Broadway described in chapter 2 has tried to position7 McCamant and Durrett, p. 201. Progressive lendingcertainly cannot be assumed; one major credit union inVancouver is currently not lending to cooperatives.44itself in exactly this way.8 In fact, the Vicinia project hasgone further in its creativity. Formed as a so-called equitycooperative with the members as tenants-in-common, it hasconvinced CMIIC to offer individual mortgage insurance so thata lender can provide a mortgage on each member’s leaseholdunit on a personal covenant basis; one advantage is that theproject is protected against general foreclosure in the caseof mortgage default. Thus, this cooperative is effectivelyemulating some of the features of a strata corporation.Finally, nonprofit corporations like Community Land Trustshave the capacity to attract funding from socially concernedinvestors and philanthropists.9 In the United States, forexample, development costs have been lowered by grants fromreligious organizations, charitable foundations and citygovernments. Clearly, most of these agencies would only beinterested in homeownership projects for individuals andfamilies with limited means.8 Interview with Craig Vance, Providence ShelterCorporation, Vancouver, B.C., 27 February 1992.9 Mark Roseland, uii.t.j.e (Ottawa,ON: National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy,1992), p. 147.453.3.3 Legal Agreements and Group Values (Test c.)Given the variety of values with legal implications that mayexist from group to group, it is difficult to suggest genericsolutions. Nevertheless, one helpful idea that could beapplied to most cases is the idea of establishing legalagreements in a phased style, dealing as much as possible withthe immediate task at hand and delaying complexity wherepossible. McCamant and Durrett list three phases of thedevelopment process at which legal agreements need to be drawnup:a. initial organizing (pre-site acquisition) and developmentplanning.b. construction.c. definition of final ownership and management structure.10To approach the legal side in stages, with complexitypostponed until absolutely necessary, is a strategy for nottiring potential members or scaring them off. The phasedapproach to encoding legal agreements is an option; the actualcontent of such agreements as outlined below is a wellestablished in the European experience as described byMcCamant and Durrett.10 McCamant and Durrett, p. 162.46--Initial OrganizationThe first agreement usually will cover the group’s purpose,decision-making procedures, recruitment methods, and fees topay operating expenses and early consulting services. Theorder in which membership payments are received can be thebasis of a priority list for selecting the eventual privateunits. Non-paying attendees at organizing meetings generallywould be excluded from voting. The organizing group might berestricted to a smaller number than the planned final groupsize, to make planning easier (see subsection 3.7.2 below).An example of an initial agreement used by one of the Danishgroups studied by Mccamant and Durrett is given in Appendix7.3 at the end of this study. Attorney advice and assistanceis probably not necessary at this point.--Purchase and ConstructionThe second agreement normally will be established when thegroup is prepared to purchase property or hire consultants onan extended basis. Two possibilities are to incorporate as adevelopment partnership (.mni..t) or a buildingassociation (.pjtia ct), which will exist through theconstruction phase. An attorney will usually be involved withwriting up by-laws. This agreement will generally require aminimum, partially-refundable investment towards the downpayment on the site and collateral to guarantee the47construction loan. Obviously, this stage represents anincrease in risk for individual members. The by-laws wouldalmost certainly need to include membership withdrawals andprocedures for settling accounts, e.g. refunds not being madeuntil a new member is secured. This stage of agreement willalso reflect the involvement of any third party partner suchas a developer, builder or nonprofit sponsors like conununitydevelopment corporations in the U.S. (see below under 3.5.2 to3.5.4). Finally, it is important for the bylaws to spell outwho can legally represent the group.11--OperationThe third agreement is set up after construction is completeand the construction loan is transferred to individual orcooperative mortgages. The by-laws of this homeowners’company or cooperative supersede all previous agreements.Certainly included here will be details concerning maintenancefees and management structures, degree of control overtransfer of shares or titles,12 and whether the group agreesto a limited equity (permanent affordability) plan as a socialvalue in its agreement. It may be argued that the final legalstructure is something that will need to be discussed longbefore occupancy. This is no doubt true; the values that will11 Ibid., p. 163.12 For example the group could have first right ofrefusal if a member wants to sell, thereby strictlycontrolling membership; in a private company, even thetransfer of shares by bequest can be restricted.48be encoded in the final managing document will be wrestledwith at the earliest stage of the group. However, dealingwith the precise formulations should be delayed until laterlest the group die in the details before it has even begun.3.4 FINANCIAL CONCERNSApart from the funding implications of the legal structure ofa cohousing group (see 3.3.2 above), there are several areasof a cohousing project that have financial implications. Thefollowing list of financial constraints and opportunities (inchronological order as the project develops) can be abstractedfrom the descriptions in McCamant and Durrett and localexperience as revealed in interviews:a. early recruiting, exploration of values and goals: mayinvolve hiring a cohousing consultant or a genericfacilitator, advertising, meeting room rentals, and someoffice overhead.b. development planning: if self-developing, usually willinvolve hiring an architect, and perhaps a specialistconsultant in cohousing (preferably these will be one inthe same).c. site acquisition: downpayment, plus the usual propertypurchase costs; legal charges to set up the groupagreement; permits.49d. construction: if acting as own general contractor, willinvolve securing a loan to buy materials, hire sub-trades, and pay development cost charges.e. maintenance: both ongoing and capital replacement (e.g.roof).3.5 FINANCIAL SOLUTIONSEach of the financial and physical needs listed in theprevious subsection can be handled in different ways.3.5.1 Initial CostsAs was noted in the descriptions of legal agreements, chargingfees to interested members is the customary way to recoverexploratory and what might be called “group development” and“vision-casting” costs. Fees can either be monthly dues or aone-time nonrefundable deposit (the Vicinia approach).Sometimes government or foundation grants can be secured ifthe project qualifies as a innovative case study (see section5.4 below). There is also the remote possibility of a privatepatron, or the more likely scenario of involving a courageousdeveloper even at this early stage.503.5.2 Development PlanningThe cohousing group can act as its own developer, assuming alender is willing to provide funds for land acquisition andconstruction. Banks can require purchase commitments for atleast half the units before such lending will be approved.13Another option is for the cohousing group to do a jointventure with a developer. The complexities and expense of theprocess (including, today, managing neighbour reactions)usually will make this an attractive choice. Unless anonprofit developer can be found which is convinced about thesocial merits of cohousing, this partnership will add costs.Usually the most that can be hoped for is a limited-profitdeveloper; apparently this breed of developer is multiplying,at least in the U.S.14 It must be remembered that financialinstitutions prefer to work with developers having trackrecords and sizeable collateral.3.5.3 Land AcquisitionIf self-developing, funds can be secured from any financialinstitution willing to offer them. Mortgages can be heldjointly or individually, depending upon the legal arrangement.13 MeCamant and Durrett, p. 163.14 Diane R. Suchman, “The Role of For-Profit Developersin Public/Private Housing Partnerships,” Lrj.an La,zc (October1992): 80.51--Cooperative MortgageA cooperative mortgage has the advantage of allowing memberswith large downpayments (generally older, more establishedfolks) to be partnered with those that do not have much in theway of a downpayment but can handle large monthly payments(young career types). In this way, a socioeconomic andintergenerational mix is promoted in the membership.Cooperatives with the right social values included can attractlow-interest loans from government or, in the U.S., agencieslike the National Consumer’s Cooperative Bank. Dorit Frormndescribes a U.S. limited-equity cooperative that secured agovernment loan by agreeing to include ten units f or very lowincome residents.15 A problem may arise, however, whengovernment funding, and its attendant bureaucracy, threatensthe privately-driven creativity of a cohousing initiative.Furthermore, if the cohousing model is too dependent ongovernments, it will disappear in times of tight public money.--Individual MortgageCreativity is also possible with individual rather thancooperative mortgages. Again, the Vicinia project is pavingthe way. In addition to gaining CMHC support (see below),this group also intends to lobby a single lender for optimumrates, with the argument that a “volume deal” for so many15 Dorit Fronmi,.tiv nirii..t i..e. (New York: VanNostrand Reinhold, 1991), p. 100.52individual mortgages should be in order. The CoHousingNetwork is promoting another innovative strategy, theformation of a fund to attract private investors in cohousingreal estate.16One way to reduce land costs is to lease land from asympathetic landlord such as CMHC or a Land Trust. Forexample, in Israel, housing associations known as amuta formto secure land at favourable lease rates from the nationalgovernment (which owns virtually all of the land in thecountry). In fact, the Vicinia project is leasing its landfor sixty years from CMHC. In that case, contributing to a“sinking fund” becomes another monthly charge to offset thedecreasing resale value of the building and permit moving intonew premises at the end of the lease. Another possibility forgetting help with financing, especially where the cohousinggroup decides to include people who cannot afford to becomehomeowners, is to involve a nonprofit social housingorganization in the development of rental units in theproject. HcCamant and Durrett describe one Danish cohousingdevelopment that successfully followed this model.’7However, some difficulties are noted in Dorit Fromm’s analysisof Dutch experience with mixing renters and owners; inparticular, there is the fact that renters do not show up muchto meetings about finances’8 One group that actually charged16 husJ (Newsletter of the CascadiaCohousing Society), Vol. 1, Issue 3 (Fall 1993).17 McCamant and Durrett, pp. 109.18 Fromm, p. 62.53rent differentially according to ability to pay isreconsidering its generous spirit, largely because of rentersabusing the system. Finally, in places where mixed use ispossible or required (as in the Vicinia with its mandatory W.Broadway storefronts), additional savings are possible throughleasing coirunercial space (assuming vacancies and rents arefavourable and a “profit” can be made), though this takes timeand trouble to manage.3.5.4 ConstructionIn rare cases a self-developing cohousing group could act asits own general contractor. There is growing literature onself-help (meaning self-build) housing strategies.9 Moreoften, given the complexity of a building project (includingdealing with local government) the higher costs of hiring abuilder must be borne. As with a developers, low-profitbuilders with some social vision should be located, ifpossible. If they will guarantee costs, so much the better.The Vicinia managed to locate a competent builder who was alsowilling to help with financing. Within the typical project,there are three key ways to reduce construction costs:a. limit idiosyncrasies in private unit design.b. avoid changes during construction.19 For example: Kenneth Claxton, “Self-Help Housing,”(December 1989): 38-41.54c have the cohousing group do some of the building orlandscaping. McCamant and Durrett describe severalDanish cases where the cohousers did much of thefinishing work. However, a caution should be taken fromDorit Fromm, who describes a Dutch cohousing group whoended up paying more to have professionals fix up theirpoor workmanship.20Another major way to drastically reduce construction costs isthe (probably rare) situation where an existing structure canbe renovated. McCamant and Durrett encountered at least oneof these projects in Denmark, and happen to live in onethemselves •2 13.5.5 MaintenanceOperating costs obviously can be handled through monthly fees.Such costs can be offset in two ways:a. having the cohousing group do some or all of the work; toavoid incompetent performance, freeloading or guilt, theVicinia has decided to charge everyone fees, thenprofessionally define all cleaning, repair and evenmanagement jobs and allow members to “bid” on the contracts(so that they effectively reduce their fees20 Fromm, p. 63.21 McCamant and Durrett, p. 96.55according to the amount of time and skill they have toput in).b. where possible, running one or more cooperativebusinesses on the property, or renting out commonfacilities to neighbourhood groups. Sometimes tax breaksmay be available for such operations, but an expertshould review any claim to be sure it cannot bechallenged later. Dorit Fromm again provides a warningout of one Dutch project which consistently found theircooperative ventures to be hard to staff, money—losers orboth. Eventually, the residents were forced to selltheir common house to pay off taxes and business loans.22Finally, implementing a policy similar to sharing acooperative mortgage creatively (with different downpaymentamounts from member to member), a progressive cohousing groupmay decide to assign operating costs equitably according todwelling size, number of occupants and household income.3.6 GROUP PROCESS CONCERNSTo understand the opportunities and constraints of groupprocess in a cohousing project, there is no substitute forconsulting with groups themselves. Members of the most22 Fromm, pp. 62-63.56accessible local projects were interviewed (see Appendix 7.1).The key concerns they faced in their group processes wereabstracted. Beyond this local anecdotal information, there isfurther help on group process in the cohousing literature. Ofall sources, McCamant and Durrett especially provide rich casestudies of the planning and execution process experienced bycohousing groups. Here is their summary:Resident participation in the development process iscohousing’s greatest asset and its most limiting factor.It is a huge task for a group of people, inexperienced inboth collective decision making and the buildingindustry, to take on a project of this complexity. Mostresidents have little knowledge of financing, design, andconstruction issues for housing development. Theyencounter problems in maintaining an efficient timeline,avoiding the domination of a few strong personalities,and integrating new members without backtracking.23What emerges from a comparison of local and European cases,however, is that there mostly is nothing unique to cohousingabout how the group needs to operate. In trying to abstractthe possible essential group issues faced by cohousers, thefollowing emerged in the interviews and the literature:a. the function of group size: in a larger group it is moredifficult to maintain community (including ownership of theprocess) and effective and efficient decision-making.b. the function of inclusiveness in planning: how far downthe planning road can you travel without the full, finalmembership being established?23 Quoted in Elena Marcheso Moreno, “Cohousing Comes tothe U.S. ,“ 2 cijt,tu (July 1989): 64.57c. the function of freedom: how many group norms can beapplied before individual expression will be offended?d. the function of agenda: the content of the group processis not open-ended.e. the function of the outside facilitator: a group does notusually contain all the resources needed to run an effectiveprocess; beyond a process facilitator and project manager,there is a role for technicians with specialized skills infinancing, design and construction.3.7 GROUP PROCESS SOLUTIONS3.7.1 Group SizeWe should recall that one of the main motives to experimentwith cohousing in Europe in the first place wasdissatisfaction with the impersonal institution that largecollective apartment buildings have become. McCamant andDurrett note that most Danish cohousing conwnunities theystudied had an average of 15 to 33 households (40 to 100people).24 They suggest that there are three categories ofcohousing size: small (6 to 12 households), medium (15 to 30)24 McCamant and Durrett, p. 42.58and large (over 35).25 However, it seems to the presentauthor that a smaller scale is more feasible both in terms ofsatisfying community life (the minimal requirement defined asknowing every member well) and effective and efficientdecision-making. It is interesting to note that largerprojects have tended to solve both the community andefficiency issues in two ways. The first approach involvessubdividing the housing physically, clustering a morereasonable number of units around a series of modest commonhouses. The whole group rarely, if ever, meets. The secondsize “solution” is actually part of the approach to the nextgroup process issue. Before turning to that approach, onemight ask: Is there a lower limit to group size? In fact, itappears that one would not want to have much less than sixunits as “small housing groups often have difficultymaintaining the energy to organize common activities over aperiod of many years.”263.7.2 Membership and PlanningAs McCamant and Durrett describe, some groups opt to have onlya subset of the final group form in the beginning and makecharter and sometimes even design and site decisions.27 This,of course, is designed to make group process easier, and thetemptation to use this model is especially great when the25 Ibid., pp. 156-7.26 Ibid., p. 42.27 Ibid., pp. 37, 77.59final number of community members is going to be large (seeprevious section). However, it is almost impossible to makelate joiners, who have to “buy into” someone else’s plan, notfeel second class or less responsible for subsequent processesand decisions (especially, in a mixed-tenure situation, if thelate joiners are the renters). In fact, an overly smallfounding core can itself be detrimental: too much work fortoo few can weary a group before it even gets going.Whatever the pain of a long process, it is better to includeas many of the final members as possible from the start.Naturally, this becomes an argument to keep the final size ofthe project relatively small so that a long process does notrisk burning out members and even killing the whole effort.Whenever someone joins, the key thing is to make sure thatgroup members are aware of the commitment to group processfrom the start, so that people like those involved withVicinia will be attracted. As Marcus and Dovey warn: “Thedevelopment process of finding like-minded people, settinggoals, negotiating funding, hiring an architect, anddeveloping a design program requires a high level ofcommitment and participation.”2828 Clare Cooper Marcus and Kim Dovey, “Cohousing--AnOption for the 1990’s,” jy iur 6 (1991):112.603.7.3 Voluntary CommitmentsAnother area for the group to address is how to make sure thata distinction is drawn between cohousing and communes. Thecharter and subsequent “contracts” or group agreements shouldhave a minimal number of non-negotiable behaviours so thatmaximum freedom is extended to each member to participate incommon life as they wish. Of course, a group can opt to bemore stringent in the communal requirements, but the necessityof policing and penalties and the complexity of evaluatingpotential new members can become daunting and discouraging.3.7.4 Substance of Group ProcessWhat do cohousing groups actually meet and decide about? Infact, the content of the discussion is precisely and primarilythe set of issues identified in this study (see the end ofeach chapter for a summary). Following this primary list ofconcerns and solutions may help to order and speed up theprocess. The sorts of secondary, optional questions on theagenda can be found in the guidelines offered by McCamant andDurrett (e.g. type of common facilities desired29) and Fromm(e.g. type of site plan to encourage neighbourhood interactionbut protect privacy30).29 McCamant and Durrett, p. 38.30 Fromm, chap. 9.613.7.5 Professional AssistanceOn both substance and process matters, it would be wise to addone more decision to the list: whether or not to followMcCamant and Durrett’s advice and budget for a cohousingconsultant from time to time during the planning and executionof the project.31 This would especially help to avoid burningout professionals in the group who are volunteering theirservices too much. However, taking a warning from someprojects (see the interviews in Appendix 7.1), one needs tomake sure that the consultant has all the requisite skills ingroup facilitation and administration.3.8 SUMMARY3.8.1 Legal Concernsa. Overarching question: what is possible under the statutesgoverning associations and property?Options: i. partnerships-for profit-not for profit (e.g. Community LandTrusts)ii. cooperatives31 Franck and Ahrentzen, p. 124.62iii. strata corporations/condominiumsb. Overarching question: are lending requirementsfulfilled?NB Each legal structure has different implications forfinancing.c. Overarching questions: are the values of the groupprotected? Will a phased approach to setting agreements inwriting be adopted?Phase options: i. initial organizing agreementii. construction agreementiii. final ownership and management agreement3.8.2 Financial ConcernsStages and funding optionsi. early recruiting: monthly or one-time fees;institutional or private patronii. development planning: group act as owndeveloper or do joint venture with non- orlow-profit developer63iii. site acquisition: cooperative or individualmortgages; purchase or lease (NB sinkingfund required)iv. construction: act as own general contractoror hire one and at least be involved withfinishing touches; consider renovatingexisting buildingv. maintenance: contract or do own work; run abusiness on-site3.8.3 Group Process Concernsa. Size: optimal between 6-20 units (up to about 50people, because it is difficult to maintain an acquaintancewith many more people)b Membership Timing: people need to be involved with keydecisions from the start; need a critical mass to avoid burnout in planningc. Commitments: minimize rules to avoid being a commune.d. Agenda: follow guidelines like those in this study toprevent unnecessary delays.e. Consultant: one option to prevent volunteer burn-out.644 DESIGN OF COHOUSING4.1 INTRODUCTIONThe key resource by McCamant and Durrett, and the subsequentwork by Fromm, provide a good starting point for the criticalwork of abstracting the design elements applicable tocohousing. There are other useful avenues of insight on theobstacles and opportunities of cohousing design, e.g. sourcesarising from related housing types. These reviews will beconsulted rather than depending on local interviews, as therehas been little experience to date of finalized projects inthe British Columbia. The foundation has just been poured forthe Vicinia building on W. Broadway.The focus task of this chapter is to clearly identify theessential design principles that apply to cohousing,separating these from the optional; the former representconstraints that cannot be avoided (at least by the definitionadopted in this study), the latter solutions which provideadditional choices and motivations in a cohousing developmentplan. Tackling these two topics will result in some broadconclusions for policy and practice as a cohousing facilitatorin B.C. working specifically with design issues.The starting point involves returning to the discussion begunin chapter 1, namely the definition of cohousing, now exploredmore fully from a design perspective. The approach that will65be followed is to agree on the constraints inherent in thedefinition of cohousing, to analyze the design challenges thatnaturally arise in ay cohousing project, and then to look atoptions exercised by projects that follow j.yjj,1 models(notably the cluster housing model). The point of thisexercise is to enable facilitators to be absolutely certainabout the decisions that must be made and the obstacles toovercome in the physical sphere in order to design a cohousingproject.4.2 DESIGN CONCERNSWhen consulting written sources and actual experienceregarding the type of housing of interest in this study, thereis an immediate problem of the definitions of terms based onphysical attributes. The example of local cohousers suggeststhat there is s..j.n.gI design automatically imposed oncohousing. The Vicinia is a four-storey apartment building;Winslow Cohousing in Washington State features on-the-groundtownhouses situated along a “village street.” This promptsthe question: Is the physical design of cohousing in any waylimited by definition from the start? If so, what other,earlier classifications of housing might provide appropriateinsights? We will attempt to understand further whatcohousing design is by comparing the component of the66definition dealing with design (see 1.3.3 c.) against designdefinitions of related housing types in the literature.4.2.1 Cluster HousingOver fifteen years ago, Untermann and Small wrote on .çJjj.,Quij1g, which they describe as multiple housing units thatshare:a. common walls, floors and ceilings.b. common open spaces and facilities.’Taken at face value, it is not clear whether the authors wouldinclude any condominium development with a party room, an edgeof landscaping around the building, and a small inner court ashaving sufficient common amenities to meet their definition.They do specify that their emphasis is further restricted tothe development of low-rise, medium-density clusterenvironments. They also describe this form as openspace/garden apartment-type housing developments. Thus, forthem, high-rises set in a park and having a common parkinggarage would not qualify for attention. In fact, they clearlyindicate that the kind of housing they have in mind is meantto be an antidote to the “human pathology in high1 Richard Untermann and Robert Small, Sit Pi..annixg(New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977), p.1.67density/high-rise urban housing environments.”2 On the otherhand, though their definition is becoming more refined, italso risks eliminating some kinds of housing that mightnaturally be described as cluster development but not shareany common walls, floors or ceilings. For example, thehousing units may be detached but very close together andplaced around a common garden or square, or they may onlyshare walls with a common room. As one instance of this, areport prepared for the Alberta Department of Housing in 1986labeled groups of single-family detached housing precisely asb,.,te ho’iag .Comparing an even earlier source, in William Whyte’s book onIut ioimt one finds a spectrum rather than adefinition. Whyte places conventional subdivisions with nocommon open space at one end, and at the other end clusterdevelopment of high density, with towers or townhouses sitedaround small common greens.4 Thus his focus seems to be ondensity rather than on design, which is betrayed by a synonymhe offers for cluster development: “density zoning.”Furthermore, common open space is emphasized but not commonfacilities.2 Ibid., p. v.3 DA. Watt Consulting Group and Faur DevelopmentConsultants Ltd., ca.ia ivjsjo (Edmonton, AB:Alberta Department of Housing, 1986).4 William H. Whyte, .c P.vjt (New York:American Conservation Association, 1964), p. 12.68How much can the lessons of these older American treatments ofinnovative housing and site design be applied to the morerecent housing movements? Are the same types of housing underconsideration?4.2.2 Medium-Density HousingAn important text by Marcus and Sarkissian, atre (1986), in fact continues the problem withdefinitions. Their apparent interest, as described in thesub-title of their book, is m y.Then, in the introduction, one meets this affirmation: “Wefirmly believe that [low-rise, high-density or clustered]housing, when done well can serve the needs of many segmentsof the population better than the other two density extremes--low-density, detached housing or high-density, high-risehousing.”5 Finally, the authors admit that low-rise, mediumhigh-density housing in both the private and publicsectors will be given attention, thus resolving the densityconfusion. They also name three other characteristics of thehousing under consideration in their book: it is attached, itis smaller and it involves more shared facilities; of course,the latter two comparative features require some reference5 Clare Cooper Marcus and Wendy Sarkissian, R jng a.s itcp.Le Matte ci (Berkeley, CA: University of CaliforniaPress, 1986), p. 7.69point to be really useful as a limitation of focus: “smaller”than what, “more shared facilities” than what?4.2.3 European CohousingTurning again to McCamant and Durrett, one finds the followingphysical categories outlined: private, self-sufficientresidences, extensive common facilities, and intentionalneighbourhood design.6 There is a hint that facilities forcommon dinners is almost a requirement, and the fact is notedthat most cohousing development consists of attached, low-risedwellings clustered around pedestrian streets or courtyards..7Two other features listed, design planning by residents andcomplete resident management, are really organizationalcategories that have been dealt with earlier. Therefore, aswith the earlier sources cited, the physical design boundariesare not that limiting, though they certainly do not embraceevery built form. Definitely included are “sharedhousing” (several unrelated people in a traditional house) or“congregate housing” (private rooms arranged around sharedliving spaces). Beyond this, however, a great variety insize, location, design, and even density, is admitted underthe cohousing umbrella..8 Furthermore, when the authors do6 Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, ,i.,,Qh vig.n mp i.rig Q.u iv (Berkeley, CA:Habitat Press, 1988), pp. 10, 36.7 Ibid., p. 43.8 Ibid., pp. 42—43.70suggest other limitations on the cohousing model, the concernis much more with social than physical considerations: theresidents represent a cross-section rather than any specificage or family type (such as the elderly or single parents),intentional communities or communes organized around strongideological beliefs are excluded, and there is individualchoice in the degree of participation in communityactivities .9Dorit From, as already noted in chapter 1, maintains that theessential design characteristics of cohousing include commonareas and facilities (rooms for shared cooking and diningbeing usual but still optional) combined with private, self-contained units (including private bathrooms and kitchens).l°The fine print is given in the introduction to the book.Here, we discover that, as with McCamant and Durrett, nospecific building type or density is required. For example,cohousing is applied as a term to a high rise in Sweden and ahundred-plus-unit apartment building in Germany.’19 Ibid., pp. 15—16.10 Dorit Fromm,.V Q11,thQXa iv Ko (New York: VanNostrand Reinhold, 1991), p. 269.11 Ibid., p. 2.714.2.4 AnalysisWhat can we abstract from these housing movements,specifically answering: what is their relationship physicallyto cohousing? Cluster housing is, as Fromm rightly notes, apurely physical category.12 It describes self-sufficientdwellings which are grouped together--detached or attached (onone or more surfaces, but not a high-rise)--so as to createless private and more common and contiguous open space, and tocreate room for common facilities. McCamant and Durrett, onthe other hand, maintain that cohousing “refers to an ideaabout how people can live together”13 rather than primarily tophysical or other characteristics. Nonetheless, threeessential physical features seen in the earlier housing typescan be seen to form the design boundary of what most wouldconsider to be cohousing:12The one exception to this usage of terminology isChristopher Alexander et al in .A Eajtnagi.a.g. (New York:Oxford University Press, 1977), where a social (specificallylegal) note is introduced: “People will not feel comfortablein their houses unless a group of houses forms a cluster, withthe public land between them jointly owned by all thehouseholders” (p. 198). Whyte also anticipates this legalaspect of cluster development with common areas in his .CJji.tiioprnnt.13 McCamant and Durrett, p. 43.72A.1 private, self-sufficient dwelling unitsA.2 extensive common areas and facilities (relative tothe private space)A.3 relationships between structures and between builtform and land that promote neighbourhood orcommunity.Three other features seem to be almost on the essential listfor cohousing (in terms of “contributing to community orneighbourliness,” see 1.3.3 above), but do not quite make itthere:B.1 low-riseB.2 medium to high density (i.e. smaller and/orattached units)B.3 common dining facilities.It may be arguable that these three follow necessarily fromcondition A.3, but it then would not be a matter of “givens”by definition but solutions that follow from first principles.For those that win the argument for including B.1 and B.2 in alist of essential design constraints, then the link withcluster housing is obvious. In other words, if one’scohousing model is low-rise with higher densities, either bychoice or necessity, then the essential lessons of clusterhousing are critical to learn, and the optional lessons wouldbe at least salutary. However, all cohousers must begin with73the “A” list, and ask what design solution apply within thethree boundaries indicated. The cluster model, for example,then becomes a .çQ.flda.r.e j. Finally, the uniquecharacteristics of a particular cohousing community (e.g.children, disabled residents, ecological ideals, artistic orcraft pursuits) dictate a .t.e t.i.zy ai.gn i,e. In thenext section, we will focus mainly on the primary exercise ofsolving the essential cohousing constraints (the “A” list),but also indicate implications for the cluster approach (asthis appears to be a popular option for cohousers).4.3 DESIGN SOLUTIONS (THE “A” LIST)While identifying design solutions in this section, the focuswill be on sources available outside of the specific cohousingliterature. The object is to augment and perhaps critique thedesign options in key sources like Fromm in light of theessential constraint categories. Whereas some cohousers ortheir reviewers move beyond design solutions that areessential, we do not want to be overly distracted by optionalapproaches, i.e. those that can vary from one cohousingproject to the next.744.3.1 Private, Self-Sufficient Units (A.1)a. Personal and Flexible UnitsThe literature on the architecture and interior design ofprivate houses is of course vast, and any of it could beconsulted. That is to say, there is nothing particularlyunique about the private spaces dictated by the “A” listcohousing constraints given above. One exception to this rulemight be the link between design and community life (A.3),specifically how proximity and close interaction impacts theneed for uniqueness and personal identity in internal space.The question is debatable: either one decides that theopportunity for contact with others in communal space is sogreat that little visiting in private spaces will take place,so the need for personalization in such spaces as some kind ofidentity protection is reduced (that is, there is littleopportunity to compare and discover that your space is notvery unique); or one decides just the opposite, namely thatthe close contact between people, wherever it takes place,mandates care in the interior design of personal refuges onboth large and small scales. If one follows the second line,then there will be a motivation to uniquely shape and decorateeach private unit.75A good place to find inspiration for small-scalepersonalization, if it is deemed necessary, is Alexander etal’s A ka.nguag,e, notably pattern 253, “Things FromYour Life”.14 On creating identity in semi-private spaces,see Marcus and Sarkissian, especially design feature 180,“Personalized landscape. “15Large-scale personalization (e.g. specifying differentarrangement of rooms in each unit) is simple in unattachedcohousing units, or in attached complexes where space and costare not an issue; standard architectural sources are all thatis needed. On the other hand, the challenge posed by clusterhousing models when it comes to creating variation in units isgreater (see below).The notion of large-scale personalization raises the questionof flexibility in internal spaces. Research seems to indicatethat residents are less inclined to move interior walls thansome architects might imagine: “The general symbolic andemotional ties with the house, the need to territorialize andpersonalize, the need for expression, may be more importantthan physical flexibility, although they are related.”16However, one might imagine that the encouragers of communitylife in cohousing would want to promote permanence of tenancy,and therefore would be more open to some innovative ways to14 Alexander et al, pp. 1164-6.15 Marcus and Sarkissian, p. 234.16 Quoted in Marcus and Sarkissian, p. 64.76make interior spaces adaptable to accommodate changes inlifestyles and desires within a household. Specializedarchitectural literature would need to be consulted, e.g. onmodular design.b. Abbreviated UnitsBeyond the general category of personalization, it seems thatprivate spaces are affected mostly when certain options areexercised regarding a particular cohousing project. Forexample, a secondary design issue for private space arisesdepending upon what decision is made about common facilities(A.2). Kitchens in individual homes could be abbreviated if acommon kitchen (B.3) is constructed, just as a common roommakes entertainment space in each home less necessary; theargument here is that one can always book common spaces tofacilitate hosting a large number of guests.There is little experience with this sort of design featureoutside of cohousing itself, apart from suites designed forseniors in so-called congregate housing (which has limitedapplication to any situation involving children); in suchhousing, cooking and eating together is a regular reality,unlike the way party rooms are used in typical condominium“communities.” More help might be available from the lattermodel regarding the impact of providing a common unit for77guests, as some condominium complexes have experimented withthis amenity.The general principle is clear: anything provided communally,e.g. laundry facilities, is less necessary or even unnecessaryin private spaces, with a consequent impact on design.Finding material on the specific impact probably would requirecareful research.c. Clustered UnitsAs has been suggested above, choosing a clustered approach(i.e. B.1-2) to cohousing means that literature on theclustered form could and should be consulted. Here one needsearch no further than the classic source on site planning byUntermann and Small and the more recent excellent guidebook byMarcus and Sarkissian. The latter resource is especiallyuseful as it has adopted Christopher Alexander’s famouspattern paradigm, providing a synopsis of some 254 designfeatures for cluster housing, with main principles abstracted,applications suggested and extensive cross-references givenfor each feature (though sometimes features seem to bedistinguished unnecessarily).Which of these design features are critical in a clusteredproject, that is, as compared with any otherclustered project? The surprising thing is not many of the78features listed by Marcus and Sarkissian are s,ae,n.tja,i tocohousing private units, though this becomes less surprisingwhen one considers the limitations imposed by the authors ontheir work:Dwelling interiors are not included. Analysis of ahundred case studies of residents’ responses totheir housing environments clarified that theirchief complaints focus not so much on dwellinginteriors as on overall image, milieu, and siteplanning. Most designers know by now how to designan adequate kitchen and a functioning bathroom, butapparently their skills have not been so highlydeveloped in site planning, landscaping, playdesign, and creating acceptable images. Hence thisbook focuses on the arrangement of dwellings on thesite, the treatment of facades and entries, and thecrucial spaces between buildings.17In other words, it would seem that there is little in the wayof private space issues for cluster housing in general, letalone clustered cohousing. Thus, for example, there is nohelp here on providing architectural variety on a large-scalein the interior space of attached dwellings where space andcost are relatively limited. For this issue we must turnelsewhere, though precisely where is not clear. What follows,then, are the clustered housing features covered in Marcus andSarkissian that may have some special applicability tocohousing private space.17 Ibid., p. 11.79I. Privacy Protection (1.d,h)18It is an open question whether privacy needs to be more orless protected in clustered cohousing as opposed to any otherclustered project. Does community life, with its closerrelationships, engender more or less respect for privacy?Most would agree to err on the side of caution, and opt fordesign that enhances privacy in and around individual units.Surprisingly, Marcus and Sarkissian offer only a fewguidelines beyond the basic principle (p. 34). This may bebecause careful approaches to sightlines, overlooks, use offences, and so on, are such well-established architecturalpractices. As for noise, it may be overly optimistic that thekind of people who choose cohousing do not want the same levelof insulation from the sound of neighbours and passersby (e.g.children) as does the average person. When it comes toproviding sound barriers, it may be better to err on the sideof caution, especially if there is a desire to protect resalepotential.ii. External Personalization (29-34, 180)The same debate that applied to internal personalization abovealso applies to external personalization, though withdifferent arguments. Whereas less visiting in private spacesmay lessen the need for personalization on the interior, more18 The references are to the design guideline numbers asgiven in Marcus and Sarkissian.80visiting in common spaces also may make personalization on theexterior less critical. The reason is that the very drive forpersonalization, namely as a way to reduce a sense ofanonymity, is not as great within a cohousing project. AsMarcus and Sarkissian state:Most people need, if not to design their dwellings,at least to give them some touch of uniqueness thatsays: “This is mine; it is a reflection of me/myfamily; and I/we are worthy and unique beings.”19However, the theory is that such ego-valuation is happeningmore through the relationships between people in a cohousingsituation, making personal architecture less vital. Moreover,as most cohousing is resident-designed, the need to resist thealienation from professional architects through “thecompletion or continuing modification of dwellings byresidents”2° seems to be eliminated. Finally, it is unlikelythat the veiled hostility or fear attached to the idea ofterritoriality, i.e. the “deep need to know where their domainends and another begins”21 would have any place in a truecohousing environment (see also comments on “the part and thewhole” under 4.3.3 below). The only counterargument offeredat this point is the possibility that community life itselfmay liberate some creativity in residents, where an audienceof close neighbours and friends actually inspires externalpersonalization, not so much out of individual desperation oreven competition, but out of a sense of communal enjoyment.If the latter becomes true, then the avenues suggested by19 Ibid., p. 63.20 Ibid., p. 64.21 Ibid., p. 66.81Marcus and Sarkissian could be helpful, e.g. the suggestionson entry personalization.22iii. Private Open Space (1.k)The challenge of creating semiprivate patios or yards inhigher density developments, if this is deemed to be anecessary part of•ii-utti.c i.enc y. in cohousing private units,could be approached through Marcus and Sarkissian’s chapter 7,“Private Open Space.” Also, see again design feature 180,“Personalized landscape.” Another good source is generalmaterial on the architecture of townhouse complexes, thoughthe higher sensitivity about community in cohousing contextsrequires special treatment. For instance, residents wouldprobably not want their privacy barrier to be too abrupt,presenting an unfriendly facade to their neighbours andcolleagues. In this case, Marcus and Sarkissian provide ahelpful concept: transitional filters. “Most people find itpreferable that visitors or strangers pass through a series ofzones or filters that make them more and more aware that theyare entering a private domain as they approach thedwelling.”23 See also design feature 77, “Common spaceboundary” and 228, “buffer zone”.2422 Ibid., pp. 72—3.23 Ibid., pp. 78—9.24 Ibid., pp. 127, 276.82d. Small, Dense UnitsAll that remains is to deal with the impact on private spacewhen densities are chosen which move beyond the possibility ofcluster housing to either row housing or apartments. Thereasons for choosing medium density over low may have nothingto do with economics. The residents may simply have decidedto maximize the land available for common facilities and openspace, or they may be part of that subset of cohousers who arekeen on ecology and energy conservation. In any case, thereis no better place to begin on happy design of such attachedunits than the comments by Alexander et al on “Row Houses” and“Housing Hills”,25 and by Kevin Lynch on courtyard or patiohouses.26 For example, note the strategy of placing rowhousing on paths off roadways, permitting units to havegreater frontage and therefore more light penetration.As for creatively dealing with the limitations of small units,it is useful to turn to history. Witold Rybczynski describeswell the societal differences which permitted the move tosmaller homes in seventeenth-century Holland.27 The mainfactor was the embracing of a nuclear family model of housing,leaving behind the large communal dwellings--with theirextended families, tenants and servants--of other European25 Alexander et al, pp. 204-214.26 Kevin Lynch,.(Cambridge, Mass.: TheMIT Press, 1981), p. 414.27 Witold Rybczynski, Sh ci.y .f ..an(New York: Viking, 1986), pp. 59f.83countries. Whatever might have been lost in this shift, thereclearly is a parallel with the private space of cohousingprojects, where communalism definitely happens outside ratherthan inside the home. Furthermore, Dutch homes of this periodwere smaller than what had been known elsewhere in Europe, andthey have much to teach the cohouser living with high densityand hence more modest units:The French interior was crowded and frenetic, themany pieces of furniture jostling each other inrooms whose papered walls were illustrated withscenic landscapes and where all surfaces wereembroidered, gilded, or decorated. Dutch decor, bycomparison, was sparse. Furniture was to beadmired, but it was also meant to be used, and itwas never so crowded as to detract from the sense ofspace that was produced by the room and by the lightwithin it.28Beyond the general literature on apartment complexes andefficient use of space, one could even turn to special designapplications such as mobile homes, trailers and yachts to getinsight on high density private space.4.3.2 Extensive Common Areas and Facilities (A.2)Similar to the issue of providing private space, there issurprisingly little that is special or unique to cohousingwhen it comes to providing common space, that is, featuresthat would distinguish cohousing from, say, any townhouse orcondominium complex. For example, Marcus and Sarkissian’s28 Ibid., p. 63.84comments on “Comfortable space dimensions” (pp. 121f) and“Facility size” (p. 203) are certainly applicable beyond thecohousing world.29 The only difference in the latter case isthat the “user needs research” advocated by Marcus andSarkissian to prevent underused or overused facilities shouldbe easier to do among a cohousing group. Beyond this, thereare a few general issues that can be drawn out:a. MaximizationAs was noted under 4.31.d, there may be a tendency amongcohousers to maximize common areas and facilities. This hasobvious implications for the size and density of private units(see above) if the solution involves physical spread of thecommon space. If the solution also includes efficient use ofspace, then possible useful sources arethe architecture of community centres and the design of multi-use parks.b. Overall SizeThe overall size of a cohousing project becomes a question ofbalance in regards to communal facilities. Clearly, certainfacilities, e.g. indoor pools, cannot be financed if theresident group is too small. On the other hand, someamenities become difficult to operate when user groups are29 Marcus and Sarkissian, pp. 121f, 203.85large. For example, Marcus and Sarkissian refer to a Swedishstudy which notes that a maximum of ten households shouldshare communal laundries, so they “can easily organizescheduling and responsibility for keeping the space clean”.30The issue of size will be revisited below (see also 3.7.1above)c. BoundariesThe issue of boundaries between private and public space wasalready touched on in the discussion of private dwellingsabove. Here it will suffice to recall the ambiguity inherentamong cohousers, that is, where such residents are perhapsless concerned with “space hierarchy,” “common spaceboundaries” and “buffer zones” than typical people living inclose quarters with one another and with common areas. Marcusand Sarkissian state unequivocally: “Ensure that theboundaries between private and communal space are clearlydefined.”31 It remains open to debate whether the averagecohouser may be more interested in privacy (because of thecommunal factor) or less interested (because of the communalfactor). In sum, it may be better to lean toward sharpdefinition of private space in the design so that theindividual British Columbian cohouser can exercise maximumchoice in the balance between private and public existence.30 Ibid., p. 194.31 Ibid., p. 127.86d. FlexibilityAgain, the issue of flexibility is a moot one, and for similarreasons as in the case of private interior space (4.3.1.a).On the one hand, to create the longevity of tenancy which isessential to community life, it would be good to anticipatedifferent needs over the course of a household’s maturation ascommon facilities were being designed (e.g. turning part of aday-care into a teen centre). On the other hand, physicalsubstantiality and permanence is also important to communityidentity, thus making an argument for a rootedness ofbuildings in the ground, a fixedness to their walls, and aluxury of time for landscaping like trees to evolve and forlandmarks to take on meaning. In short, a flexibility ofspace should not sacrifice a sense of place.4.3.3 Overall Design Promoting Community (A.3)We now turn to the last of the defined constraints oncohousing design, namely the existence of relationshipsbetween buildings and the space between buildings thatencourage a sense of neighbourhood or community life. What isclear is that this constraint overlaps with the previous two,but additional insights may be gleaned that are not strictlypart of providing private or common spaces. What is unclearis exactly what is meant by “neighbourhood” or “community87life.” Unfortunately, it lies outside the scope of this studyto tackle such a slippery question.32To continue using the concept, however, it must suffice to saythat cohousing design should promote neighbourliness andfriendship. It is easy to see how the interplay of theprevious two constraints aid this cause: the option ofretreat into private space makes intimacy voluntary andtherefore more intentional and appreciated, whereas thenatural, spontaneous and regular opportunity for friendlycommunal contact allows for the interpersonal knowledge basewhich breaks down isolation and builds up true friendship.What more then can be said about encouraging these values atan overall design level? It turns out that, once again, theguidelines which are specific to cohousing are modest, thougha little more can be said about the specific option ofclustering.a. Between UnitsWhere the cluster model is followed and shared entrances arechosen, density amelioration can be achieved by making sureonly a few units are accessed by each entry and by varyingfacade design from unit to unit.33 Both of these strategiescreate a lower perceived density. Making another point,32 For an introduction to the issue see Lynch, pp. 239ff,400-402.33 Marcus and Sarkissian, p. 34.88Marcus and Sarkissian assert that “a degree of socialhomogeneity is necessary before residents will develop afeeling of community”.34 This may be a tautology, “a degreeof social homogeneity” being so vague as to be identical with“a feeling of community.” The fact is that the precisehomogeneity or feeling desired is a choice made by residents,with the relationship between private units arisingaccordingly.For example, if the cohousing project is to be geared tofamilies, the private units will tend to be similar andlarger. Or if the desire is for a mixed social situation,then units will be of different types, say one for families,one for couples, one for singles, one for the disabled and soon.35 In this case, another decision would be whether or notto link similar units (i.e. similar life-styles) to the samesub-cluster within the overall project. What is emerging hereis that there is nothing essential for cohousing in the areaof homogeneity. In fact, especially in the case of acohousing project designed by young couples, it might be goodto build in heterogeneity that is unnecessary at the start(i.e. some larger units) but becomes important in allowinggrowing families to move within the project.36 Again, happy,long-term residents promote community life.34 Ibid., p. 42.35 See Alexander et al, pp. 376ff.36 See Marcus and Sarkissian, p. 44.89A final note about the relationships between units involvessecurity. Allowing some degree of surveillance betweenneighbouring units is still wise, even though it is arguablethat a stranger will always be very noticeable in common areas(assuming that surveillance of common areas is not restrictedand the overall number of residents is not large). Generally,however, it would be foolish to depend too much on detectingand intercepting a potential burglar before they get close toan individual unit.b. Between Units and FacilitiesWell—sited community facilities is a principle put forward byMarcus and Sarkissian with regard to cluster housing.37 Thismay seem like a feature desired equally by all projects withshared facilities, but perhaps the higher degree of communitylife, with the fairness implied in that concept withincohousing, makes it even more important to create equitableaccess (e.g. similar walking distance, ramps for the disabled)to common facilities. There. is no place within cohousing fora situation that can arise in townhouse developments, where“phase” three units can be much further from the commonclubhouse than “phase one” units. The same principle could beapplied to parking, which should be adequate enough and at asimilar distance from each unit to prevent one of the worst37 Ibid., p. 34.90obstacles to community spirit: jockeying for premium parkingspaces.c Between Units and LandIn the specific case of the cluster model of cohousing and theneed for density amelioration, visual and functional access toopen space from each dwelling is key. As Marcus andSarkissian note: “...a feeling of spaciousness within thehome--an important component of resident satisfaction inmedium-density housing--can be achieved when well-landscapedgrounds provide green views from windows”.38Moving to the question of overall size of the project, it istrue that non-physical limitations are probably moreimportant, e.g. how small can the number of households bebefore the community demands become too great.3’ A similarnon-physical criteria is the perception as to what forms ahousehold group where there can be face-to-face contact andtrue neighbourliness; or, more objectively, how large a groupcan be and still work effectively and easily on a consensualbasis. On this score, Alexander et al are very definite:houses should be arranged in clusters of 8 to 12 unjts.40 Therelationship to the land now becomes clear, for they further38 Ibid.39 McCamant and Durrett, p. 42, suggest more than 6households, and note that most European cohousing developmentshave had 15 to 33 households.40 Alexander et al, p. 202.91maintain that each cluster must be organized around commonland and paths which the residents control and graduallydevelop.The common land is an essential ingredient, a focus whichphysically knits the cluster together. This pattern ofdwelling and community life can be traced back for millennia.As Untermann and Small state: “The cluster housingenvironment is the most fundamental and enduring form of humansettlement.”41 The only thing that might be debated is theoptimum number of households per cluster. Many have made theconnection between cohousing and the village (plus commons)which has been ubiquitous in human history and geography.Lewis Mumford suggests that neolithic villages were comprisedof between 6 and 60 families.42 On the other hand, Marcus andSarkissian would allow their identifiable clusters to rangefrom 30 to 100 units (1986, p. 35); elsewhere, they put thelower limit at 20 (p. 189).43 Clearly, the Alexander campwould be itching to subdivide much further.To be fair, it is possible that Marcus and Sarkissian have inmind smaller subunits linked to communal, semiprivate spaceslike courtyards and play areas,44 distinguishing the latterfrom larger public spaces shared by up to a hundred homes.”41 Untermann and Small, p. 1.42 Lewis Mumford, z.y (San Diego:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1961), p. 18.43 Marcus and Sarkissian, pp. 35, 189.44 Ibid., p. 264.45 Ibid., p. 274.92What is missing from their scheme, though, is an essentialsense of clustering, so that the communal space issemienclosed or totally enclosed by and visible to all thedwellings it serves. However, on the basic principles thereis agreement:--larger developments should have clustered subunits (p.34) 46--each subunit should have some elements of uniqueness tocreate a sense of place and identity (p. 57).--the most important basis for a sense of place and identityis common open space (pp. 119-120).47--all spaces should be treated as territories or zones ofinfluence of a subunit of residents to encourage theirproprietary attitude (pp. 264-5), with the boundariesmarked explicitly (e.g. hedges), subtly (e.g. distinctivepaving stones on a court) or even symbolically (e.g.naming the space).--ambiguous space should be minimized, that is, space ofunclear use or control (p. 274).46 The references are to Marcus and Sarkissian.47 See also Sim Van der Ryn and Peter Caithorpe,ainbimm t.i (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books,1986), pp. xiv-xvii.93d. Between Units and the WholeThe balance between designing the parts and designing thewhole is perhaps weighted slightly towards the latter forcohousers. This again is a reflection of the community ideal,and especially the participational design process enjoyed bythe typical cohousing project. The implication of this isthat, as suggested earlier, relatively less sympathy will beafforded to personalized design and flexibility in thecohousing context. That is to say, where idiosyncrasy andflux go too far, the community responds with integrity andstasis. So, cohousing projects will look unified, and remainquite stable in design, though it remains an open question howmuch they could be distinguished from any townhouse complexwhich has a monotone design due to economics and a staticdesign due to unempowered residents.e. Between Built Form and LandOnce more, Marcus and Sarkissian are very helpful when theypoint out that community life depends on more than communityfacilities but also includes opportunities for casual socialcontact. It turns out that most of the principles involvedwith fulfilling such needs centre on the relationship betweenbuildings in general and open space. For example, Marcus andSarkissian suggest that:94--windows, porches and fences should allow easy views ofpassersby(p.186).--areas for outdoor chores should be within speakingdistance of public circulation space (p. 187).--no dwellings should be located in isolated positions (p.187).--major pedestrian routes between buildings should passthrough communal open space that is attractive to spendtime in; one obvious idea is to provide seating(p.188).--courtyards should be no more than 30 feet wide to reduceisolation between facing units (p. 190).f. Between Site and the WorldMarcus and Sarkissian maintain that a sense of community (andsecurity) is enhanced when access to the site by outsiders isdiscouraged. Most of their suggestions relate to carefultreatment at site entries (see guideline 78, “Street linkage”and 201, “Site entry barriers”).48 On this point, Alexanderet al seem to disagree, as they are happy to arrange clustersso that pedestrians can cross through them without feelinglike trespassers.49 However, the contradiction between theseauthorities disappears if the clusters of Alexander et al arein fact equivalent to the smaller subunits of a developmentwhich Marcus and Sarkissian envision as sharing a semiprivate48 Marcus and Sarkissian, pp. 127, 255.49 Alexander et al, p. 202.95space. The very notion of “semiprivate” suggests thatappropriate use by outsiders is allowed.4.3.4 Secondary and Tertiary SolutionsBeyond the general design solutions, then, all other decisionsrelated to cohousing communal areas depends on the type offacility chosen (e.g. B.3, common dining facilities) and thetype of community being served (e.g. children). Before oneturns to specialty literature, Marcus and Sarkissian is stilla good place to begin. Under “communal facilities” (pp.191ff) they cover small meeting rooms, kitchens and diningrooms, day-care centers, laundries, workshops, communitygardens, adult sports centres and swimming pools.5° Further,there is an excellent chapter on common open space and theneeds of children. A micro-scale amenity suggested by Marcusand Sarkissian is a connecting door between units to permitshared child care.51Other design decisions mainly arise out of the values aparticular cohousing group might hold. For example, on asocial level, it seems that cohousing initiatives tend toattract an ecologically sensitive clientele. It isinteresting to ask what environmental opportunities arise inparticular in the case of cohousing, and what design50 Ibid., pp. 191ff.51 Ibid., p. 192.96strategies may be appropriate. The literature in this areathat is directly related to cohousing is sparse, but there ismuch to be mined from sources indirectly, e.g. Van der Ryn andCaithorpe’s ...çQinmmjtL (1986). Such collateraldecisions about a project become potentially endless, asinspired by the idiosyncrasies of a specific cohousing group.Having dealt with the internal forces at work on design, theexternal forces involved, namely governmental ones, will bethe subject of the next chapter.4.4 SUMMARYa. Internal Personalization (debatable importance)i. Small-scale-Indoors (decoration and furnishing)-Outdoors (landscaping)ii. Large-scale Flexibility (moving walls)97b. Reduced Self-SufficiencySecondary Design Exercise: depending on economics,unit size and the specific common amenities provided thatreduce or eliminate the need for the same amenities inprivate unitsc. Dense Dwellings (Option)Secondary Design Exercise:i. Privacy Protectionii. External Personalization (limited importance)iii. Private Open Space Providedd. Small Dwellings (Option)Secondary Design Exercise:i Access to Light and Landii. Efficient Use of SpaceL,.2 ..mmQna. Maximization (Option)i. Spread of Facilities and Open Spaceii. Efficiency of Facilities and Open Spaceb. Size of Group Matched with Facility Desired98c. Boundaries Between Private and Public Space Can BeModerated. Flexibility of Buildings Not To Oppose Sense of Placee. Secondary Design Exercise:i. Depending on Type of Communal Facility—Kitchen and Dining Room-Otherii. Depending on Type of Community-Children and Open Space-Elderly or DisabledL.3 Qva. Between Dwellingsi. Density Mitigation (where necessary)-Facade variation-Minimize number of units per external entryii. Secondary Design Exercise: depending on definitionof community homogeneity-Housing type(s)-Clustering of similar type-Housing heterogeneity anticipating future socialmixiii. Neighbourly Surveillance99b Between Dwellings and Facilitiesi. Facilities Well Sitedc Between Dwellings and Landi. Density Mitigation (where necessary) ThroughVisual and Functional Access to Open Spaceii. Subunits of 8-12 Households around a Common Spaceiii. Unattached Space of Unclear Use To Be Avoidedd. Between Parts and the Whole• . the Whole is Somewhat Favourede. Between Buildings and Land• Design for Casual Social Contact-Pedestrian Friendly-Conversation Friendly-Observation Friendlyf. Between the Site and the Wider Community• .Discourage Access to Overall Site by StrangersTertiary Design Exercise: depending on community values-Ecology-Cottage Industry1005 GOVERNMENT FACILITATION OF COHOUSING5.1 INTRODUCTIONInterestingly, financial concerns are of least importance ascohousers relate to government, since by our definitioncohousing is to be largely privately financed (1.3.3).However, financial concerns do not cover all the socialimplications of cohousing, as the following list demonstrates.Chapter 2 already dealt with the advantages and impediments ofcohousing from a governmental perspective. To recapitulate,all levels of government should be interested in cohousing forat least five reasons:a. the interest in a certain segment of society in homeownership remains undiminished (see chapter 6);this aspect of the affordable housing question should notbe ignored.b. a significant affordability factor may be generated byprivate cooperation alone, with no public funding (seesection 2.4 above).c. affordability can be passed on to future generationsthrough limited equity covenants between cohousingmembers.d. other indirect social benefits can accrue; Europeanexperience shows good neighbourhood enhancement throughaspects of cohousing (e.g. more continuous open space,101rentable meeting spaces, proactive involvement of stable,sensitized members with community issues).e. the “green” trend in society will reinforce a cohousingmovement because the members of cohousing projectsfrequently have ecological concerns which motivates themtowards, for example, higher densities.Not only should governments be motivated, but cohousers have astake in influencing, where possible, government constraintson their projects. (See Appendix 7.5 for a general lobbyingstrategy regarding local government.) Even if their projectdoes not directly benefit, they may end up aiding futurecohousers.The range of potential involvement of governments in cohousingwill be outlined below, starting with and concentrating onlocal government as a sign of the growing role this sector hasin community development. The insights here will be mainlyderived from interviews with cohousers and municipal plannersfrom the Lower Mainland region. Later, current federal andprovincial opportunities of interest to cohousers will bebriefly described (with information largely based ongovernment publications).1025.2 LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONCERNSThe results of the interviews of cohousers and planners fromthis regions are useful in three ways:a. alerting cohousing groups to the areas of governmentrelations requiring special attention in developmentplanning.b. pointing out possible places for cohousers to lobby forflexibility and creativity on the part of local plannersand politicians.c. encouraging local governments to consider high-leveragepolicy changes to facilitate more cohousing.5.2.1 Context: Self—Help Housing and Local GovernmentHulchanski et al provide a helpful summary of the categoriesof local government involvement in affordable housing (seeAppendix 7.4), a good starting point for identifyingconstraints and opportunities related to cohousing.1 Thethree types of initiatives from their list most applicable toself-help housing (in particular, cohousing) are: (a) houseconversion loans and regulation reform; (b) zoning reform to1 David Hulchanski et al, iiaJ I. in1.yand iaiit.ancL,Q.t L.c.w,Jaaig (UBC Centre forHuman Settlements, 1990).103allow clustering; and Cc) land provided to non-profitsocieties and cooperatives.That being said, the degree of local government support forspecifically private, self-help approaches to affordablehousing is very limited according to the record. A KingCounty Plan was actually the policy statement reviewed thatwas most advanced in this regard. Although there, as in allthe policy literature, the relatively new term and concept ofcohousing does not appear. However, the King Countyprovides three strategies underits “Objective 2B: Homeownership Programs” that might beapplicable to the cohousing model:2a. develop an urban homesteading program.b. assist non-profit self-help housing agencies to operatein urban areasc. assist nonprofit housing agencies to acquire land todevelop a community land trust, enabling homeowners tolease rather than purchase their lot.Follow-up research still needs to be carried out to see howthis plan is progressing, in particular the ownershipinitiatives which were identified as “long-range.” Contactwith the King County policy office suggests that much of the2 1 1.,1.e li.cyJIan (King County Housing andEconomic Development, 1987).104work on housing is now being subsumed under the GrowthManagement Act provisions.5.2.2 Cohousers’ Perspective--Local Government ConcernsDetails from the interviews can be found in Appendix 7.1.The key interconnected principles behind the cases discussedwere:a. inflexibility and lack of imaginationb, the tradition of separated uses.c. unwillingness to exercise discretion.d. unwillingness to set a precedent.Three further obstacles identified were:a. getting encouragement from one municipal department butexperiencing roadblocks with others (e.g. Vancouver’sHousing and Properties Department, which isentrepreneurial when compared with Planning orEngineering).b. planning departments tending to be academic and notwell-versed in the land market.c. resistance from neighbours to rezoning, e.g. againstclustering in single-family zones.105The latter obstacle is certainly local in nature, though notspecifically a governmental problem.—-Local Government SolutionsFirst, it should be recognized that all the cohousingproponents reported great sympathy in the response ofmunicipalities to their proposals. Grassroots initiatives bycitizens are always attractive in some sense to officials.However, all also agreed that the climate for cohousing couldbe improved. Aside from direct attacks on the bureaucraticresistance and negative organizational culture listed above,several possible proactive approaches by local government toencourage cohousing were identified:a. give an entrepreneurial director outside of planning orengineering the authority to define “equity co-ops” orcohousing projects with a guaranteed social benefit asqualifying for co-op status under the Cooperative HousingAct, and thus permit them to benefit from:-—more lenient parking regulations which avoidapplication for rezoning or variance--(at least in Vancouver) a fast-track approvalprocess.b. facilitate a public education campaign which woulddisassociate cohousing projects from communes (with their106negative overtones) and instead associate them withstable, long-term, private tenure combined with tangibleneighbourhood benefits.c. help cohousing groups find suitable land (e.g. that wouldbe easily rezoned), either actively or by providingreadable maps.d. lease land to cohousing groups.e. define cohousing as a housing use that can be introducedinto official community plans, area plans and zoning bylaws.f. allow housing in all zones (i.e. including commercial!industrial)--zoning was meant to protect housing propertyfrom industry but not vice versa (in other words, mixeduse would permit more opportunities for housing,especially of the affordable variety; for example,adaptations and conversions could take place).g. allow clustered cohousing in single-family zones as anoutright use (subject to certain design and sitingrestrictions).5.2.3 Local Government Planners’ Perspective--General ConcernsInsights were also gained from two planners based in aparticular municipality (Delta), though it will be clear that107their comments can be generalized. Again, details from theinterviews are found in Appendix 7.1. The main constraintsidentified were:a. shrinking land base for housingb. little planning experience with cohousingc. little social motivation for innovationd. fear of neighbourhood resistance to change.5.3 PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTThe Housing Division of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs,Recreation and Housing administers rent subsidies and overseesthe work of the British Columbia Housing ManagementCommission. This agency, too, is mainly concerned with rentsupplements, as well as encouraging private sector investmentby reducing interest costs for projects that meet certainobjectives (B.C. Rental Supply Program).3 Recently, theministry set up a Provincial Commission on Housing Options(for the results, including incentives for cohousing or equitycoops, see chapter 6).Interestingly, the current program that might be of most useto cohousing groups is run by a different ministry, Financeand Corporate Relations. This is the Home Mortgage Assistance3 S ,....,.. j.,, (Victoria: Enquiry B.C., 1991).108Program (M.A.P.), designed to help people who do not have adown payment big enough to meet usual mortgage requirements.With M.A.P., an individual may borrow as much as 95 per centof the purchase price and still qualify for mortgageinsurance. This program has planning implications forcohousers, as it would not be available to a group with acooperative mortgage.5.4 FEDERAL GOVERNMENTMost programs at the federal level relevant to cohousinggroups would be administered through the Canada Mortgage andHousing Corporation (CMHC). There are not many generalconstraints and opportunities (since the funding for socialhousing has been eliminated), apart from the structuralsupport provided to the general mortgage market. Accessing thefollowing programs might be of interest in special cases:a. Guidelines, standards, design and performance criteriarelating to building components, housing units andphysical environments, including requirements for peoplewith disabilities.b. Rural and Native Housing Program, providing housingassistance, including a homeownership approach, incommunities of 2500 people or less.109c. Housing Awards Competition, aimed at recognizinginnovation in housing for particular groups in society.In addition, CMHC is acting as a catalyst with othergovernment levels and the private sector to foster affordablehousing, including examining the prospects for developinggovernment land. Two examples are:a. the Canadian Centre for Public/Private Partnerships.b. Affordability and Choice Today (with the Canadian HomeBuilders’ Association, the Federation of CanadianMunicipalities and the Canadian Housing and RenewalAssociation), encouraging regulatory reform at the locallevel to improve housing affordability and choice.4Again, the program of greatest usefulness to cohousing groupsis actually run by a different department, namely the abilityto remove funds from RRSP’s (on a payback schedule) to applytowards down payments. This program was recently renewed forone year. However, this good incentive, like the BritishColumbia M.A.P., is directed at the individual mortgageholder. There is nothing like the special recognition andsupport given to limited—equity cooperative mortgages inDenmark and in many American states.4 tc.....,..edrj..J ivi.c (Ottawa:Ministry of Supply and Services, 1992).1105.5 SUMMARYa. At the local level, be prepared for:i resistance on being flexible with fire andbuilding codes, mixed use and parking requirementsii. different messages from different departments atmunicipal halliii. resistance from neighbours to any rezoningiv. hesitation about supporting market-style housing,even when a group with a social conscience isinvolvedv. hard work to change to a more creative andfavourable climate (but spend more timeaccommodating your plan to “what is”)b. At the provincial level, look for:i. help for low-down-payment buyers through M.A.P.ii. the new program to help equity co-operatives becomeestablishedc. At the federal level, examine:i. the Housing Awards Competitionii. the RRSP withdrawal-for-down-payment programiii. CMHC support for specialized projects meetingspecific social needs.1111126 CONCLUSION6.1 PROVISIONS FOR COHOUSING IN B.C.The preceding three chapters, which form the bulk of ourstudy, indicate that the key constraints facing cohousingpractitioners can be addressed by opportunities in B.C.6.1.1 OrganizationFirst, as in most of the developed world, legislative contextsexist to allow private equity combined with common property.In fact, as Vicinia has demonstrated, legal frameworks areflexible enough to permit a combination of the advantagesenjoyed by cooperatives (community control over resales, e.g.limited equity) and the features of condominiums attractive tosome people (e.g. individual mortgages and a sense ofhomeownership). Other creative options such as Community LandTrusts remain to be more fully explored in B.C.Second, though it is not clear how extensive the help will befrom private developers and lending institutions, it has beenshown that financing can be facilitated in B.C. through theinvolvement of CMHC as either provider of leased land orbacker of individual mortgages (even in a cooperative legalframework). However, there is nothing yet like the subsidyavailable through the Danish government for limited equity113projects. If Windsong completes its project, it will be thefirst in B.C. to demonstrate that cohousing is possible withno government input. Finally, it seems (at least based on theexperience of Vicinia) that competent, creative builderswilling to carry costs and guarantee prices can be found inB.C.Third, as for resident group process, there is nothingparticularly unique about the solutions available in BC. asopposed to anywhere else a group may operate. One can atleast be sure, viewing the experience to date in Vicinia andWindsong, that the requisite energy, creativity anddetermination exists among some British Columbians to endureand enjoy the typical cohousing development process.6.1.2 DesignA happy result of the analysis in chapter 4 is that theessentials of cohousing design do not represent a long list,and many of them have been put forward only tentatively, withmuch mootness acknowledged. What this means is the criticaldesign task is not exhausting, well within the capabilities ofB.C. professionals and even resident groups working on theirown. Furthermore, there is plenty of freedom for uniquefeatures in a project. However, if the critical issues,however minimal, are ignored or unemphasized, then it isdoubtful that a true cohousing project will result.114This point is salutary if one turns from a deductive approachto cohousing design to an inductive approach, that is,abstracting issues from contemporary cohousing experience. Itis remarkable on the one hand to see how much of the designlogic in chapter 4 matches the investigation of McCamant andDurrett of European models,’ and, on the other hand, to seehow much Dorit Fromrn’s design program for cohousing loses thekey issues in a forest of non-essentials.2 Nevertheless, asone does move beyond the strict essentials, specificallytowards the popular options of low-rise (Vicinia) or clusterhousing (Winslow and Windsong), there is plenty of evidencevisible in the Lower Mainland of B.C. that talent exists forsuch design. Much experience has been gained during the longhistory of socially-funded and shaped housing projects in theprovince.A final warning would be wise: it is one thing to say thatcareless or unfocussed design may preempt a cohousingexperience, it is quite another to say that design canguarantee a cohousing approach to living. For instance,common eating facilities are a feature of Scandinaviancohousing. However, it is also normal in these settings tomake common meals optional rather than mandatory (in the1 dare Cooper Marcus and Wendy Sarkissian, ifMa . (Berkeley, CA: University of CaliforniaPress, 1986), pp. 171ff.2 Dorit Fromm, ,ç 1..aha iv ui.ti.s (New York: VanNostrand Reinhold, 1991), pp. 272-3.115spirit of making communalism voluntary rather than followingthe tighter expectations of communes such as kibbutzes).These two realities are somewhat at odds, severing any neatlink between design and experience when it comes to sharedmeals. This qualification on design imposed by socialcontracts and cultural symbols can be generalized. As Marcusand Sarkissian state: “Design cannot cause behaviour, but itcan offer the possibility of certain activities takingplace”.3 Thus, what can be said is that the physical designprinciples offered in chapter 4 encourage residentialbehaviour in the direction of cohousing values, but otherforces must also be brought to bear to make cohousing areality.6.1.3 GovernmentBoth literature reviews and discussions with experts areconvincing in regard to the question of affordable andotherwise creative housing: private, self-help approaches area trend for the future. The overwhelming reason for thisclaim is the diminishing public funds available for social andcooperative housing. Although federal and provincialgovernments can still be involved with innovative housing, theprograms are not extensive, making community-based action allthe more essential in today’s policy climate.3 Marcus and Sarkissian, p. 10.116That municipalities should also be key actors in affordabilityand other shelter issues is mandated by the current tendencyfor senior governments to down—load social concerns. Indeed,the Municipal Act of B.C. was recently amended to requireconsideration of affordability in official community plans.However, there is still a long way to go before localgovernments will be seen as proponents or at least allies ofthe cohousing approach to developing shelter. On the otherhand, different cohousers made the strong point that cohousingprojects do not have to be in an adversarial relationship withlocal government. Solutions to obstacles can frequently beavailable to the patient cohouser, even if the solutions arenot very innovative.One might wonder about the source of local governmentreluctance to be actively and creatively involved withcohousing in B.C. The main impediment mentioned was aphilosophical one: why should a private group be treated anymore preferentially than a private individual? A cohousinggroup’s members should not expect any more advantages thanthose which they derive from their cooperativity itself. Inother words, the social benefit of cohousing and other formsof innovative homeownership, and the consequent priority thatlocal government should provide to them, remain to bedemonstrated.1176.2 PROSPECTS FOR COHOUSING IN B.C.Should the title of this section end with a question mark?Returning once more to the definition of cohousing, it isclear that there are obstacles to cohousing in BritishColumbia. In terms of “consumers,” there is to some degreethe same sort of rugged individualism and love affair with thesingle-family detached house as McCamant and Durrett observein the United States.4 Furthermore, we are a highly mobileculture, making the establishment of community commitmentsdifficult. In fact, many people might move to a new city(e.g. for a new job) before a cohousing process was evencompleted. For example, the 1991 census reported that almostone-third of British Columbians over age 5 had moved in theprevious five years, with over 40% of these moves being out-of-province.5 Windsong, however, which began in 1991, had notyet begun construction 3 years later, with the plannedoccupation not being until February 1995.6As we have seen, at the senior government level on this sideof the Atlantic there is no special financial help availablefor equity cooperatives like that found in Denmark. Further,4 Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, ,hias.jigmo icac’h tQ .jig Q.we Lv (Berkeley, CA:Habitat Press, 1988), p. 195.5 b.iJ.i.t.y an igai.n Canada Census Report 1991,Statistics Canada (Ottawa: Industry, Science and Technology,1993), p. 18.6.F cm ç..o jg (Newsletter of Cascadia CohousingSociety), Vol. 1, Issue 3 (Fall 1993).118as Dorit Fromm points out in her comparison between Europe andthe United States, North American local government does notyet provide help of any kind--financial, technical ororganizational .7However, in spite of the conservative biases of institutionsand individuals and the usual skepticism about a new idea,there are at least seven reasons to be optimistic aboutcohousing in British Columbia.a. There has been a strong tradition of non-profitcooperative housing in British Columbia producing a lotof experience with group process and management.b. The programs of funding for cooperative and socialhousing at the federal level have been eliminated.c. Deficits will make it unlikely that the provincialgovernment, and traditional roles reinforced byrestrictive charters unlikely that local governments,will step into the gap left by Ottawa, ensuring thatself-help approaches to shelter provision will be all themore critical.d. Both affordability and homeownership continue to be highpriority items for citizens of British Columbia. The7 Fromm, p. 95.119results of a housing affordability survey (of 606persons) taken for the Real Estate Board of GreaterVancouver were recently released. Four results are ofinterest:--two-thirds of the respondents believed that affordablehousing is a Canadian right.--most respondents believe affordable housing should be“defined as shelter in a price range that people see asreasonable and it should be for everyone, not justthose with low income, and include all types of bothowned and rental housing.”8--nearly half the respondents believe that home ownershipis now beyond the means of the average family in metro-Vancouver.--the majority of the respondents did not believe theyshould have to move from their own municipalities tofind affordable housing.If cohousing can be demonstrated to be affordable (see2.4), even on the westside of Vancouver, then it will bewell-positioned to fill the widening housing gap.e. The provincial government itself seems interested in thissolution to affordability. In its recent report,8.R.a1F atik1y, 11 December 1992.120the Provincial Commission on Housing Options made thefollowing recommendation:An Equity Co-operative Housing Program should beintroduced for low and moderate families who want topurchase their first home.The key elements of this proposal indicate that, thoughthe name is not used, limited-equity cohousing is theshelter model in mind. In fact, Providence ShelterCorporation was instrumental in this recommendation beingbrought forward, with suggested funding of 3 milliondollars in the first year.9f. British Columbia society is changing along the lines ofmost industrial societies: families are smaller, oftenwith single parents, and therefore can theoretically beaccommodated in the more modestly sized private unitsthat are possible in cohousing projects (see chapter 4).g. Finally, the already high interest in ecological issuesand the growing interest in better community life (tobridge multicultural and adolescent gaps and reduce thecrime rate) bodes well for a kind of shelter which canserve both interests so well. The environmentalfriendliness of higher densities and relational9 PQvnca1 Q nJQfl.Qfl ExecutiveSummary (Victoria: Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Recreationand Housing, 1993), p. 8.121friendliness of closer neighbours can both be engenderedby cohousing. This may be a wave of the future.6.3 COHOUSING AND THE NEXT CENTURYMarcus and Dovey suggest that “cohousing may well become themost significant new form of housing in the 1990s.. . .while theideology of the detached single-family house will persist,cohousing is a high quality and highly sustainablealternative.”10 It is an open question as to which must comefirst to see cohousing flourish in British Columbia andelsewhere in North America: a revolution in ourindividualistic, anonymous culture or radical governmentsupport. Dorit Fromm definitely emphasizes the former in herdescription of the new American dream:In tackling suburbia’s problems, people will indeed needto learn how to create better communities. This requiresnot only rubbing shoulders with others, but investingtime and interest in your neighbours and being availableto help one another. Not only are new designs needed butnew priorities within residents that go beyond thematerialistic.1’10 dare Cooper Marcus and Kim Dovey, “Cohousing--AnOption for the 1990’s,” 6 (1991):113.10 Peter Marcuse, “Why Conventional Self-Help ProjectsWon’t Work,” in .yQ Se It- uajg, ed. Kosta Mathey(London: Profil Verlag, 1992), pp. 16-21.11 Dorit Fromm, “Californian Community,” acbi.tcura1Reyj,e 189 (Aug., 1991): 80.122Mathey, writing in i1,..— 1p echoes thisphilosophy: “Whether ‘building community’ or ‘communitybuilding’ is generally adopted or not, it labels theessentials: the emphasis being on the activity that buildsrelationships rather than focussing only on the thingsproduced.”2 As suggested in chapter 2, such communityspirit, an attitude based on sharing, is central to anysociety attempting to develop along sustainable lines.Sustainability begins with the local level, and cohousingstands as a powerful model and expression of healthygrassroots initiatives.On the other hand, self-help housing expert J.F.C. Turnerbelieves that ultimately there must be a partnership betweenthe local collective and larger institutions for holisticsuccess relationally and economically: “As the capacity tomake the most economic and creative use of resources is inlocal hands, the overall task is to discover ways and means bywhich state powers and market forces can enable and supportpersonal creativity and local initiative--a search forsymbiosis not a competition for hegemony.”3 This is a worthychallenge for private action and public policy in housing andother social concerns on into the next century.12 Kosta Mathey, ed., ,,y,ç Se LtzJ1(London: Profil Verlag, 1992), p. xi.13 Ibid., p. xiv.- 123CATEGORIZED BIBL IOGRAPHYGENERAL COHOUSING OVERVIEWSFromm, Dorit. .Q b.c iv. .ommnitj.. New York: VanNostrand Reinhold, 1991.Marcus, dare Cooper and Dovey, Kim. “Cohousing--An Optionfor the 1990’s.” Pogize cbit 6 (1991):112—113.McCamant, Kathryn and Durrett, Charles. cchoin.gc..t.eipo a.c h to ,o,s jg_.Q iv. Berkeley:Habitat Press, 1988.Moreno, Elena Marcheso. “Cohousing Comes to the U.S.”,?xhit tw (July 1989): 68.COHOUSING BACKGROUND AND HISTORYFranek, Karen A. and Ahrentzen, Sherry, eds. .N.whow .cuing. New York: Van NostrandReinhold, 1991.Fromm, Dorit. “Californian Community.”. hit.ectua 1iw 189 (August 1991): 75—80.Hoffrnann, Hubert..R.cw.J.o an t ioin rxationa 1 y. New York: Frederick A. Praeger,1968.Marcuse, Peter. “Why Conventional Self-Help Projects Won’tWork.” In yc’ l 1p cajng, pp. 16-21. Editedby Kosta Mathey. London: Profil Verlag, 1992.Mathey, Kosta, ed. nd 1.p jc,uing. London:Profil Verlag, 1992.Mumford, Lewis. Tb in Ri.ty. San Diego, CA:Harcourt Brace1Jovanovich, 1961.iin i...1 c..Q.mm jQ Qp1 j.o Executive Summary.Victoria: Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Recreationand Housing, 1993.124COHOUSING: ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERSClaxton, Kenneth. “Self-help Housing..” wj(December 1989): 38-41.ikciwnhi.a.O1ik....Qc,iwnbia.Holeman, Jack R. imjijjijri Englewood Cliffs,NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980.Hana,ging a uc..c e,sf m....,ij.t y. c j..a..t . Washington,DC: Urban Land Institute, 1976.Matthews, Harry M..ç.onioL.Q-.. Q.wn.e S’.uzv ia1 Manu.a..i.New York: Putnam Publishing, 1991.Roseland, Mark...u.t a.iia b..1 e.. Les. Ottawa,ON: National Roundtable on the Environment and theEconomy, 1992.Suchman, Diane R. “The Role of For-Profit Developers inPublic/Private Housing Partnerships.” .b.Lan..d(October 1992).aiziing a )d T..ru. A.....G e to .c rning......ati.cnQiza.tipn. Alexandria, VA: Land TrustAlliance, 1990.Whyte, William H. 1 Jpinx. New York: AmericanConservation Association, 1964.Williams, Dan. SeLen Myt 5.mal DownersGrove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991.COHOUSING: DESIGN PRINCIPLESAlexander, Christopher et al.. Pa t.Ln....Lin uag.e . NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1978.D.A. Watt Consulting Group and Faur Development ConsultantsLtd. &.CJt Edmonton, Alta.:Alberta Department of Housing (now under AlbertaMunicipal Affairs), 1986.Lynch, Kevin. Cambridge, Mass.: The MITPress, 1981.125Marcus, Clare Cooper and Sarkissian, Wendy.Qp1J.a..t td. Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, 1986.Rybczynski, Witold. .HQm iLyt an Ia.New York: Viking, 1986.Untermann, Richard and Small, Robert. .i.t ian in ...,[o New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold,1978.Van der Ryn, Sim and Caithorpe, Peter. .$ aiiimiti. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1986.COHOUSING: GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONSific ak .o ing ajeçt eo iid. U. S.Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1985..&tto cia i.. p,k. Office of Appropriate Technology,State of California, 1982.Lb.1sj.ngpii..1an. King County Housing andEconomic Development, 1988.. Victoria: Enquiry B.C., 1991.jitQ.iaLr.amaxIa jyj. Ottawa: Ministryof Supply and Services, 1992.Hulchanski, David et al, jLJJ ii tb. pp..i.y.i1t e .J.o UBC Centre forHuman Settlements, 1990.Perry, Brian. Municipality of Delta Planning Department,Delta, B.C. Interview, 15 November 1992.Porter, Douglas and Cole, Susan.amaYtn iyt.cto. The UrbanLand Institute, Washington, D.C., 1982.Shih, David. Municipality of Delta Planning Department,Delta, B.C. Interview, 7 November 1992.Varady, David and Birdsall, Charlotte. “Local HousingPlans.” .J.ç 1 ,Lannjg ra (November,1991): 123—139.126INTERVIEWS WITH COHOUSING PRACTITIONERSConsul tantsCarpenter, Alan. Cascadia Cohousing Society of B.C.Interview, 12 November 1992.Hanson, Chris. Winslow Cohousing, Bainbridge Island, WA.Interview, 14 November 1992.Staples, Howard. Windsong Cohousing Association, Delta,B.C. Interview, 21 November 1992.Vance, CraIg. Providence Shelter Corporation, Vancouver,B.C. Interview, 27 February, 1992.Vicinia MembersDobson-Mack, Gordon. Vicinia Equity Coop, Vancouver, B.C.Interview, 4 August 1993.Fagnan, Sheila and Fagnan, Julien. Vicinia Equity Coop,Vancouver, B.C. Interview, 26 July 1993.Greenway, Tim and Greenway, Jennifer. Vicinia Equity Coop,Vancouver, B.C. Interview, 20 June 1993.Siemens, Kathy. Vicinia Equity Coop, Vancouver, B.C.Interview, 30 June 1993.COHOUSING NEWSLETTERS AND ADVERTISING.(Newsletter of WindSong CoHousingAssociation).aing (Quarterly by The CoHousing Network).using(Newsletter of The CoHousing Network,B.C. Chapter--formerly Cascadia Cohousing Society).Providence Shelter Corporation prospectuses.1277 APPENDICES7.1 INTERVIEWS7.1.1 With Local CohousersOn Organization of CohousingInterviews were completed with Vicinia members (and one exmember) in order to get a realistic sense of the obstaclesfaced in terms of group process in particular and organizationin general. These interviews were held just before theground-breaking for the project which took place in the fallof 1993. The interviewees were Jennifer and Tim Greenway;Julien and Sheila Fagnan; and Gordon Dobson—Mack.The following questions were asked in each case:a. What were the best things about the group process in yourcohousing project to date?b. What were the worst things?c. What first attracted you to this kind of housing?d. What are you looking forward to in the next phases(construction; early operation)?e. What are you dubious or anxious about?128The letter attached to each question forms the key to thefollowing interview summaries.ma i h ..ch iciren. They worked on theBuilding Committee.a. Best: getting to design together, at least for certainaspects of the building (though sometimes it was alsogood to have restricted options, in the interest of timeand group harmony).b. Worst: having to design within specifications set byarchitect, planning department; some losses from theoriginal design dream (though there also were gains);process was too long, partly because of skills missingin the consultant; another trade—off was group size:smaller would be more efficient but also more work perperson.c. Attracted: price; area of Vancouver; freedom to havepets; multigenerational aspect.d. Anticipating: community life; cooperating on committees(specifically maintenance); and contact with theneighbourhood (e.g. an open house is planned).e. Anxious: delays in the building program.129ajag,,1.c Q,L i,Qn.al. She worked on the Building Committee.a. Best: input on design (e.g. bicycle storage); mix ofunits; learning about how a project works; feeling asense of ownership.b. Worst: process was too long, creating extra expense;having to cut corners on the design; people not showingup for meetings.c. Attracted: priced below market; opportunity forcreativity; community atmosphere.d. Anticipating: more input on finishing touches;ownership; relating to “her floor” (psychologicallyreducing the large group size to something moremanageable).e. Anxious: market risks associated with being on leasedland; little control over who joins now...w ith....tw.ijJcii. She was on theBoard.a. Best: problem-solving with a group; creativity aspect;process is helped when not everything is fluid, i.e. somenonnegotiables set by planning department, budget,architect and even the market.b. Worst: dealing with unrealistic expectations (creatingsome tensions); no member with expertise in finance;130inefficiency and missed deadlines; inexperiencedconsultant.c. Attracted: affordability; openness to family.d. Anticipating: seeing the building go up; ownership;contact with wider neighbourhood; program for commonspaces; community.e. Anxious: cost overruns (e.g. lumber prices); a shorthoneymoon in terms of some member relationships..t cIck. Hewas on the Finance Committee before leaving the project.a. Best: good to plan in a group: ten heads are betterthan one.b. Worst: long time (with expense attached); lack ofcommitment and unifying vision; lack of a good projectmanager.c. Attracted: community at a higher level than a normalapartment building; satisfaction of a cooperativeachievement.d. Why Left: process too frustrating; did not likefinancial features (lease; commercial space) or the largesize; burn-out (was spending up to 30 hours per week).131On Rationale and Government ConcernsSeveral local, practicing cohousers provided insights ongovernment and cohousing, as well as on the rationale forcohousing. The interviewees were:Howard Staples, Director, Windsong Cohousing Association.Windsong is the oldest cohousing core group in B.C. Theiroffice is in Delta, but they have purchased land in Langley.Chris Hanson, founder and developer of Winslow Cohousing,Bainbridge Island, WA. This project, thirty minutes by ferryfrom downtown Seattle, is the first cohousing community in theU.S. to be completely developed by its residents.Craig Vance, Director, Providence Shelter Corp., Vancouver,B.C. This cohousing consulting company will shepherd thefirst cohousing project in B.C. (called Vicinia) to completionin 1994. It is located on W. Broadway. They are also workingwith a project in Kerrisdale.Alan Carpenter, Cascadia Cohousing Society of B.C. Themission of this society is to promote and facilitate thecreation of cohousing communities in the Pacific Northwest byassisting in the formation of cohousing core groups andhelping them through the development process.132--The Negative ViewThese cohousers identified local government obstacles tocohousing. The information emerged from two basic questionsput to cohousers operating in this region. One question, infact, was negative (what obstacles do local government posefor cohousing?) but the other was positive (what would a“dream local government” that encourages cohousing looklike?). Of course, considering removal of obstacles would bea positive translation of the points which follow. The actualobstacles identified in the interviews were:a. fire equipment access requirements compromisingpedestrian-oriented streets between houses, andinterfering with community gardens near clustered houses.b. parking regulations exceeding actual needs of acommuni ty.c. unwillingness of planning staff to permit a functioningelevator penthouse beyond the building height restriction(the penthouse is allowed by regulation as long as theelevator cannot be accessed from the roof); to allowelevator access to the roof-top garden (a major amenityin the project) would have opened it up to disabledmembers; here, as so often, a regulation strictlyinterpreted is limiting a social good.133d. inability of codes to allow shared use in the same space,e.g. commercial parking by day in otherwise residentialparking spaces, or storefronts doubling as common spacefor residents at night.--The Positive ViewChris Hanson of Winslow Cohousing provided a refreshing“minority report.” He feels that cohousing groups areunrealistic, expecting to change or, worse, ignore currentregulations rather than work creatively within them. Forexample, rather than trying to force multifamily housing on asingle-family zone, the Winslow group decided to build on landzoned commercial: no zoning change was required and parkingflexibility was much higher (in fact, planning officials wereautomatically eliminated from the parking design process).In the same spirit, Mr. Staples of Windsong suggested thisapproach to an unnecessary overflow parking lot: simply planon making it a ball-hockey court. Similarly, makingpedestrian streets wide enough should satisfy fire-equipmentaccess regulations: it does not mean that one has to allowany other vehicles access.Mr. Hanson’s final point was also telling. He does notbelieve that local government, and specifically planningdepartments, should be involved with land development;134planners should simply advise council and provide good maps tothe private sector.Turning to the local scene, it was noted in chapter 2 that theW. Broadway project has ensured that its affordability factorwill be passed on to future purchasers through a limitedequity agreement between members: a second generation memberwill buy at the same market discount enjoyed by the originalgroup. This social benefit is what attracted the involvementof CMHC and has engendered some sympathetic treatment bydepartments of the City of Vancouver.7.1.2 With Local PlannersThe interviewees were:Brian Perry, Area Planner, Delta Municipality.David Shih, Planner, Delta Municipality, author of anaffordable housing study in progress for Delta Council.On General ConstraintsFour features of the Municipality of Delta as revealed in theinterviews with local planners bear on the growth of self-help135approaches to affordable housing in general, and cohousing inparticular:a. few new parcels are left given the constraints of theAgricultural Land Reserve, so most future developmentwill be through infill, conversion or adaptation, and up-zoning.b, there is relatively little experience in Delta withsocial and cooperative housing.c. there are few tangible reminders of housingunaffordability through the presence of the homeless.d. the NIMBY attitude is as strong in Delta as anywhere.On Self-Help ConstraintsThe Delta planners interviewed see only two types of housing:social and market, and they are firmly unconvinced that athird way really exists. Given the NIMBY syndrome, Mr.Perrywas dubious about the window of opportunity being open to anycohousing which requires rezoning. Mr. Shih was equallyadamant that an official cohousing zone or designation wasunlikely, but in his case the resistance was expected from thetop. Mr. Shih further maintained that the Vancouver Charterafforded that city more entrepreneurial opportunity than thatavailable to municipalities operating under the Municipal Act.136On a social level, Mr. Shih was uncertain that Canadians couldmatch the cooperative spirit exhibited by the northernEuropeans who originated cohousing. On the other hand, thesocial trend towards “green” consciousness could introduce a“small and efficient is beautiful” mentality, all of whichwould be conducive to cohousing.Finally, Mr. Shih notes that the Municipal Act reference toaffordable housing was only so much “window-dressing” as itmade nothing mandatory. In fact, it is clear from the policystatement in the 1992 Tsawwassen Area Plan that affordabilitydoes not include home—ownership issues anyway.7.2 COLLATERAL SOURCES ON COHOUSING ORGANIZATIONSeveral sources outside the cohousing world might help shapelegal frameworks and financial plans. For instance,homeowners associations formed to manage open space inneighbourhoods date back over thirty years in the U.S. Thearticles of incorporation of such groups could provide insightinto the final agreement of a cohousing group.’ Even moreapplicable would be the extensive literature on the bylaws ofcooperatives and condominiums. Finally, cohousing groupswould be wise to consult reports from any regional workshop in1 See, for example, William H. Whyte, .ç 1u y.e Lorn(New York: American Conservation Association, 1964).137their area which brought together municipalities, developersand financial institutions with the purpose of brainstormingaffordable housing options.Similar to the discussion of legal and financial matters, somesources from relevant types of housing can be helpful primersfor the planning process involved with cohousing. Three suchsources are:a. 1anagi.n.g a ç..caaful mmmit asaci,a Thisresource, aimed at a variety of associations where propertyowners join together to share some property in commonenjoyment and responsibility, is particularly useful on theterms of reference for standing committees (i.e. division oflabour in the whole group and contracting in subgroups).b. c Q. .mini’,w a.nag..m j.3 This book includes some goodchapters on running meetings and establishing and enforcingrules.c. Th QQx.c :.p. Q.w rvi,..v This source hasan excellent list of. key documents for a group to have inplace.2 n.agi,rg a S.’.iççe 1 ..Qo ity i,a.t n(Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute, 1976).3 Jack R. Holeman, Cc mini.um an.a.g.eme (EnglewoodCliffs, NJ: Prentice—Hall, 1980).4 Harry M. Matthews, .T Co.d c- Q.w Au al.a 1 (New York: Putnam Publishing, 1991).138There are an enormous number of useful books in print on grouproles, communication, purpose and vision-setting, stages ofgroup life, group diseases and so on that could be usefullyconsul ted.57.3 SAMPLE ORGANIZING AGREEMENT FOR A COHOUSING GROUP:The undersigned hereby form the Sun and WindCohousing Organizing Group, which is a partnership for thepurpose of developing a cohousing community. The group’sfunctions include but are not necessarily limited to exploringthe scope of the proposed project as determined in futuremeetings; recruiting and orienting new members to the group;preparing a development program; seeking and examiningpotential sites.Interested persons become active members of thegroup by attending three meetings, paying membership fees, andsigning the organizing agreement.th.Qz-oup: Stop attending meetings and payingmembership fees.5 With a religious group, my own book, .SU r (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991)might prove beneficial.139jg: Minutes of discussions and decisions made will bedistributed to attending and absent members before the nextscheduled meeting.Zijg: To protect minority rights, a consensus-seeking process will be used. A formalized decision-makingprocess [i.e. voting, with the degree of majority specified]will be used only to avoid an impasse. All decisions are tobe discussed thoroughly before a decision is made. Decisionscan be brought up by members who were absent in the nextmeeting only.in La 1 U.g.ajoi: The finances of the group shall be therespective obligation of all individual members. At this timethe undersigned agree to pay a_____organizing fee each monthfor incidental costs which are limited to paper, mailing,photocopying, and rental of meeting rooms. For anotherpurchases, or to incur any cost above_____,authorizationmust be given at a regularly scheduled general meeting. Nodeficit may be incurred. If the group dissolves, any surpluswill be returned to the members in proportion to the length oftheir participation.p: When property is bought or other activitiesare undertaken that demand greater economic responsibility tothe group or to a third party, the organizing group willincorporate itself accordingly.140jcrpo members reserve a house in the community byinvesting in the corporation (or partnership). Persons notable or ready to invest in the corporation may follow theproject as members of the organizing group with the potentialof buying later if units are still available.67.4 LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND AFFORDABLE HOUSINGAn inventory of local government involvement in initiatives toprovide affordable housing in categories proposed byHulchanski et al:7Advocacy--lobbying for improved provincial/state and federalhousing programs.Planning and policy--mainly involving studies andrecommendation-making, though comprehensive planning andpolicies are increasing; an example of the latter is theHabiter Montreal plan; Hulchanski notes the absence ofregional planning for housing;8 Varady and Birdsall suggestthe following trends in policy-making: local task forces6 Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett,npaa.c.h.to. sin.g.Q.u.J.iL (Berkeley, CA:Habitat Press, 1988), p. 51.7 David Hulchanski et al, .TIi. i&tip R.Q i.. t.h.sp1y anj.y n.t n o Jjojg (UBC Centre forHuman Settlements, 1990).8 Ibid., p. 21.141involving all three sectors, linkage with economicdevelopment, comprehensive needs-analysis.9Standards and zoning--seen as the chief enemy of affordablehousing, but little comprehensive is being done about it; somespecific initiatives: density bonuses, demolition controls,house conversion programs, housing above shops, income mixzoning and new communities in industrial areas, relaxedregulations to allow commercial space to be used forworking/living by artists, lower standards for siteimprovements, revisions to allow clustering, zero-lot-linedevelopment, updates of codes to allow more cost-effectivematerials and construction; also, zoning for manufacturedhousing.Regulatory process--very limited reforms taking place in theadministrative delays and costs associated with development; acouple of examples of fast-tracking are cited.Organization--many initiatives in this category, notablypublic/private partnerships, intergovernmental partnerships,and expanded housing departments.Land and buildings--using municipal land for social housing,land banking (control of land prices through control of9 David Varady and Charlotte Birdsall, “Local HousingPlans,” Jou..a L......o La jug z.a November, 1991.142residential land stock), building rehabilitation assistanceand initiatives involving “granny flats.”Financing--apart from standard subsidies to low-income people,mostly the initiatives fall under public/private partnerships,but conversion loan programs and reserve funds also exist.Taxation and fees--taxation powers little used to promoteaffordable housing; waivers more common (e.g. taxes for firsttime home buyers, fees related to social housing development).Information--municipalities excel here, especially regardinghousing registries (e.g. a home-sharing service in Montreal,Ottawa and Toronto).7.5 A LOBBYING STRATEGY: RECOMMENDATIONS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTThe following represents a possible brief to a local orregional council, assuming that a cohousing group chooses tolobby for a more favourable climate for their own project orsome future one.143a. PreambleBy these four stages:--acknowledging the current socioeconomic climate with regardto housing;--recognizing the value of self-help, cooperative approachesto affordable housing, especially the model known ascohousing, within that climate;--synthesizing the literature and interview results regardingthe bureaucratic obstacles, organizational culture andleadership opportunities within local government;--being realistic about what kind of changes cohousers andother shelter innovators can expect;the following policy is devised for adoption by relevantagencies in local governments.b. Philosophical ShiftThis is perhaps the most difficult and certainly the mostimportant component of the policy. The balance of the policyrests on this foundation:144Councils, commissions and staff must recognize:i. the unique quality of group-developed equity housing,placing it somewhere between social and market housing.ii. the affordability factor of this sort of housing,especially when developer profit is eliminated.iii. the other social benefits of cohousing in particular,even when equity is not limited.iv. the appropriateness of offering some sympathetic responseto and even proactive enhancement of cohousing initiatives.c. Planning ChangeCouncils should direct the Planning Department to:i. devise a description of cohousing that would permit it tobe included as an allowed use in zones.ii. recommend amendments to the Official Community Plan andexisting Area Plans to introduce cohousing as an outright usein appropriate zones.145iii. provide the information in ii. in a clear fashion tocohousing groups.iv. designate at least one staff—person to act in a limitedway as a cohousing consultant to interested groups.d. Regulatory ChangeCouncils should amend codes to permit:i. mixed use in the same space (to encourage creative use ofspace by commercial enterprises and residents in the case ofurban cohousing).ii. shared parking by commercial concerns and residents atdifferent times of the day (again, in the case of urban, mixeduse projects).iii. discretion on the part of fire marshalls in the provisionof fire-control access (e.g. not worrying whether pumpertrucks will have to run over a community garden).iv. discretion on the part of the Directors of Planning andEngineering to interpret codes liberally and thus allowcohousing members to fully enjoy common amenities.146e. Communication PlanApart from the internal communication needs engendered by b.above and the zoning information suggested under c.iii., thefollowing communication strategy would be in order:i a combination of news releases, public meetings and cable-TV shows to announce the changes listed under c. and d. above.ii. a primer on cohousing and other self-help housing preparedby the planner identified under c.iv. above (in conjunctionwith the Cascadia Cohousing Society), including a directory oflow-profit builders and relevant consultants, to bedistributed to libraries and developers, and advertised inlocal papers for public purchase.iii. an annual community workshop on this form of shelter andthe general issue of residential intensification, hosted bythe Planning Department and involving key proponents from theprivate sector.iv. periodic news releases to the local paper (at leastsemiannually), especially as early projects are developed.147f. External AffairsSeveral inter-agency initiatives would be in order:i. invite a local member from the Cascadia Cohousing Societyto sit on any Advisory Planning Commission.ii. make sure reports circulate from municipalities as totheir involvement with cohousing and other forms of self-help,equity housing.iii. initiate a quarterly information exchange on affordablehousing and especially self-development models with planningcounterparts in Washington State and B.C.iv. investigate and lobby for CMHC and equivalent B.C. supportfor cohousing.g. Future Municipal ActionSeveral initiatives remain too controversial and unstudied tobe part of a first step, but do bear consideration for thefuture:148i. acquire and provide leased land to cohousing groups,perhaps with restrictive covenants to preserve certain socialbenefits.ii. allow clustered housing in single-family zones as long asdensity allowances are maintained on average and other designguidelines are met; also, allow housing in all zones.iii. give discretion to the Director of Planning or some newofficial to designate cohousing projects with sufficientsocial benefits (e.g. limited-equity models, includingcommunity day-care) as equivalent to subsidized co-operativesand thus subject to some relaxed standards.iv. set aside funds for low-interest loans to help financehome-ownership developments and adaptive re-use of buildingsby cohousing groups with otherwise limited means and credit.


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