Start Your Own Cohousing Community

Category: Active adult communities

December 1, 2015 — We are very happy for the folks who find their perfect place to retire -it is wonderful that you can live your dream. But we know there are many others who haven’t found their Goldilocks place, yet anyway. For those who haven’t, perhaps your experience is something like… the right community is too old… HOA fees are too high or restrictive… they have amenities you don’t want… too many young people… or, it would be perfect, except it’s in the wrong place. But maybe the problem is that your community hasn’t been invented yet. Perhaps it is up to you to build it yourself.

Nextavenue.com had an interesting article, “Not Your Mother’s Retirement Home“, that discusses different groups of creative people who are banding together for retirements based on their shared creative interests. The first was a group of musicians, The Old Farts, who are looking for fellow future residents and gauge interest in the idea at their Rock Til You Drop website.

One thing this group discovered right off is that it is hard to get agreement on every detail – everybody has their own ideas! But they do share some of these goals:
– Find a property that is affordable
– Area with a low cost of living
– Close to an international airport (within 1 hour)
– Near a good hospital
– Cultural opportunities and a college campus nearby
– And, surprise, surprise for a group of rock musicians marijuana tolerant.

The group has discussed buying an RV park because of the tiny homes and the opportunity to have visitors stay in their RVs. The existing infrastructure of such a place would definitely be a plus. What would you guess are the top states the group is considering? Answer: North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Oregon and Arizona (we’re a little surprised they are not considering Washington or Colorado).

The Lousiville Artists Cohousing
The other creative group profiled in the article profiled was Louisville Artists Cohousing near Boulder, Colo. Together with eight other artists and musicians, Emilie Parker and her husband are hoping to acquire property where they can build 24 homes. A majority of the core group is over age 50.

The group’s dream is to have private households along with a large common area for dining and exercise, plus art-making spaces. Also on their wish list would be an additional 6,000-square-feet of studio space for exhibitions and classes.

Changing the Market
Lydia Manning, a gerontologist with Concordia University in Chicago, has been studying the founding members of Rock Til You Drop in her latest research project. In the Nextavenue.org article she had some observations about how folks like them are going to change the retirement market: “I do think these types of communities are going to be gaining in popularity. I think you’ll see a trend of people wanting to craft space, rather than just pick a place and go.”

If this sounds a lot like cohousing, that’s because it is
Cohousing is all about sharing housing and the living experience with other folks who have some of the same interests. These communities usually consist of separate residential units and many communal facilities for shared living. They are similar to but not exactly like cooperative communities. Common features include group meals and dining, meditation rooms, yoga or Zen, hiking or biking trails, and large shared living rooms. We have written about it in the past, notably in Cohousing Might Be Your Answer. The movement seems to be growing, although not every project gets off the ground. Here at Topretirements our Advanced Search tool finds 29 cohousing or cooperative communities in our database (not all might be active).

So should you start your own cohousing community?
Obviously this is not something for the faint of heart – starting any kind of project of this magnitude involves tremendous work, organization, patience, and resources. It could years to get off the ground – if ever. But to stimulate your thinking, here are some examples of the types of groups that might find a cohousing community attractive, along with some initial pros and cons.

Cohousing might work for groups like these
See our article, “Finding Your Niche Retirement Community” for more examples.
Artists and musicians. These folks have a natural affiliation and a need for similar facilities. See the Burbank Artists Colony
Yoga and exercise. Again, a shared interest and ability to share resources
Church or religious groups. Ave Maria near Ft. Myers/Naples is an example of a place where Catholics can retire together.
Professional or career commonality. One example is Nalcrest, a community near Lake Wales, Florida set up for retired letter carriers.
Sports. Golf, boating, flying, and other activities all have communities with facilities where people can share these interests and common facilities (although few would technically be called co-housing because the housing is more separate). Spruce Creek Fly-in Community is one of almost 10 communities at Topretirements with a private air strip.
Ethnicity. Shanti Niketan in Mount Dora, FL is meant for people who don’t want to return to India for their retirement.
Relatives and friends. If you have relatives and friends you know you can live with, there are many advantages to finding a place where you can all live together. Perhaps a former B & B, mansion, nursing home, hotel, or small apartment building.

Advantages
Cohousing has many big advantages:
– Economic. Many people sharing expenses solves a lot of problems. With tens of millions of Americans worried they won’t have enough money for a comfortable retirement, this might be an ideal solution
– More resources. Not many folks can afford their own art studio, kiln, exhibition space, church, etc. on their own. But they can if they pool their resources
– People you know. Retiring with people you know you can live with is often better than a “pig in the poke”
– Cooperation. Rather than having to go it alone into old age, you will have a built-in support group
– Shared interests.

And there are disadvantages
– Getting these projects off the ground is very difficult and costly
– Securing agreement on major decisions often runs against too many strong interests
– The legal issues of ownership and zoning can be difficult
– Everybody has to get along, or bad things can happen

Bottom line
If you haven’t found your perfect retirement community maybe it is because you are going to have to start one yourself. But if the concept interests you, and you have a core group that wants to pursue it, this could be the answer. Talk it up among yourselves – just maybe you could make it happen.

Comments? Do you think cohousing is for you? Do you know a group of people with enough common interests to start your own community – or join one that already exists? We look forward to your Comments in the section below.




Posted by Admin on December 1st, 2015

22 Comments »

  1. Here’s a link with some advice about starting an “intentional community”:
    http://livingonthecheap.com/how-to-create-your-own-retirement-community/

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

    by Jan Cullinane — December 2, 2015

  2. The problem with this concept is that it would probably take y e a r s to work out the kinks. I think finding a community with a history of a properly working HOA/POA is the key.

    by ella — December 3, 2015

  3. The city of Ventura, Calif. has a home share program which they match up people to live together by interests, and activities. There isn’t an age limit either. It is to help people financially afford to live in Ventura by co-habitation. homeshareofventura@gmail.com

    by DeyErmand — December 3, 2015

  4. This comment is about Sun City Anthem at Merrill Ranch. My only real complaint is that before we signed the papers they told us our dog park would be ready by the end of 2013. After having our home built they said they couldn’t build it now and it might be years before we got it. They continue to tell potential buyers that we are getting a dog park but since Pulte/Del Webb won’t commit to a time frame, I wouldn’t count on it. As far as I’m concerned, reneging on this is a major concern for those of us who have spent hours driving to dog parks over the years and this was going to save us a lot of time and gas money. So much for Del Webb’s promises. So if you buy here, make sure you get everything in writing if it is important to you.

    by Madje — January 6, 2016

  5. Madje- I live near Sun City Carolina Lakes, and there was a story in the local paper that early residents were very upset because they had been told that the beautiful Sales Center would eventually be turned over to the community as an extra community center for meetings, etc. When the community was being fnished though, Del Webb tore dpwm the sales center for additional home sites. I agree that it’s worth getting the promises in writing!

    by Kate — January 7, 2016

  6. Same sad story for us. We were promised an indoor swimming pool with a retractable roof. In MN that would be so great! That was 8 years ago and it is still not looking likely.

    by Caps — January 7, 2016

  7. Kate Didn’t SCCLs get a second center? Not at the sales center, but a second community center none the less? Were there supposed to be three centers? Or is a question of the location or usage? When I visited them about a year ago, that was the case and the second center was in the process of being built and I was told that the sales center would become space for some homes.

    PS It sure is frustrating with empty promises. Would getting it in writing be possible? enforceable? Or should they just run for office? I am used to being disappointed in that realm.

    by elaine — January 8, 2016

  8. Elaine -Yes, SCCLs did get a second center. The Sales Center would have been a third center for the 3,400 homes.
    I had been told the Sales Center would be torn down too, but evidently early homeowners were told something else. It’s been interesting to live in an area where these communities are located, and to see the local press report on their development. For example, there has been a story that local homeowners are fighting over Del Webb’s plans for a golf cart path for the new community they’ve started to develop in a nearby town.

    I’d bet the Sales staffs will say that they aren’t authorized to put stuff in writing, or that the developers’ lawyers would insist on some nifty loopholes. It might be fun to try to get promises into sales contracts, such as “Buyer shall be paid a $750 rebate if the dog park is not constructed and operational by January 1, 2017.” At the time a contract is entered, this might not seem like a big risk to the developers. Hmmmm. If I buy from a developer, I’ll keep this in mind for my own sales contract.

    by Kate — January 9, 2016

  9. Unless something has changed, Del Webb does not even makevery minor changes to a house before it is built so I doubt anything would be put in writing by them. Would be interesting to try.

    by Carold — January 9, 2016

  10. (Your profile of
    http://www.topretirements.com/reviews/Colorado/Boulder/Washington_Village.html/page/2
    ) …was a great story for several reasons, one it rehabs an older building and gives it new use and secondly this new cohousing concept is a developing new trend and promotes relationships and community in neighborhoods that I believe American’s have gotten away from. Can we start a chat about cohousing so more people can see and hear about this new movement especially since it has become a way for the boomers and seniors to “age in place” and become each others care givers.
    — Huntley

    by Admin — May 9, 2017

  11. We are starting our own community in Durham, NC, welcoming LGBTs, friends, and allies for aging in community. Under the guidance of the American “parents of cohousing,” Kathryn McCamant of CoHousing Solutions and Charles Durrett of McCamant & Durrett Architects, we have made steady progress over the last two years in our goal of creating a welcoming mutually supportive community in which we will be comfortable as we enjoy our next years.

    Our 15 beautiful acres is just twenty minutes from downtown Durham. City Council is poised to approve our rezoning in June after a unanimous recommendation of approval from the Durham Planning Department. We have just completed four design workshops with Chuck, and we have just seen the beautiful artist renderings and elevation drawings of our village. It was so moving to see on paper what our ten member households had dreamed, discussed, and concensed over the course of the weekend workshops.

    We agreed on three floor plans: 646sf 1/1; 989sf 2/1; 1152sf 2/2. Our homes are single story, low or no threshold, accessible cottage-style homes attached in fours with large front porches to greet our neighbors. Our common house is an additional 2500sf extension of our homes with a large terrace for even more common space for gathering. A perimeter trail with exercise stations, dog park, and other outbuildings will be our first projects after move-in.

    Starting a cohousing project is not for sissies; it is a lot of hard work, and it is expensive. The considerable permitting and fees paid to the city, the expertise of the civil engineer winding us through this process, the development consultant and architect fees add up fast. And we’re dividing these fees over only 28 homes – not the typical 300+ homes in subdivisions. Developers won’t touch such small communities because they aren’t profitable. That’s why cohousing appears to be expensive when you look only at the square footage of your home.

    But some things in life are hard to quantify. For all the hype about our physical space, cohousing is all about the people. It requires a paradigm shift that leaves behind the rugged individualism our society currently espouses. We are looking for people who want to know their neighbors deeply, who come into our community with an open heart knowing that my idea + your idea yields a better idea altogether when we work it through together. We’re not promising to care for individuals as in a nursing home, but we can promise we’ll do our best to maintain access to all available services that will help keep people in their homes longer and to use our collective wisdom to find the best solution to assist each person.

    Cohousing happens because a small group of people move that dream to reality by investing time, money, thought, and caring before construction can begin. Our plan is for everyone to contribute their 20% down payments up front to make this happen. We offer home selection seniority, home price discounts, and a lot of fun and hard work to early members. Let us know if you’re ready to make this shift in your life and help bring the dream of Village Hearth to fruition.

    by Pat McAulay — May 9, 2017

  12. From the first time I heard about cohousing I knew it was for me. I’m an extroverted introvert and I loved the idea of having deep relationships with people right next door but still being able to retreat to my own private place to recharge. As a single woman with no children it makes even more sense, though I think it is also a wonderful way to raise children.

    I joined a forming community – Village Hearth Cohousing (http://www.villagehearthcohousing.com) in Durham NC – at the beginning of its journey. We are on track for starting to build in about a year and expect construction to take another year – four years from start to finish is actually pretty fast. What has made all the difference is using a development consultant and an architect who are very experienced in cohousing. They guided us through the process, teaching us about the culture and practicalities of living in cohousing at the same time. It is a very interesting journey. Working together bonds the members before we start living together, even though a number of us do not currently live in Durham.

    by Linda — May 9, 2017

  13. I ‘d be interested in co-housing in north Florida (Jacksonville area) or east Georgia near the Atlantic Ocean. Do you know of any presently in existence in these areas?

    by Sara — May 10, 2017

  14. I’m interested in co-housing in the central Texas area close to Austin although won’t be able to do much about it until spring, 2018. Co-housing or finding committed, dog-loving roommates who want to share a home within 60/75 minutes of Austin. If someone is starting – or interested in working with me early next year to create one – please let me know. Thanks

    by Martha — May 10, 2017

  15. Raleigh Cohousing pioneers are following in the footsteps of Village Hearth in Durham. We are creating an intentional community for Active Adults so that we can age successfully in community. We want to stay independent and control our destinies rather than succumb to the traditional options by default as our parents did. We have been gathering our “people” community for a year now and are negotiating on 15 acres of organic farmland in the heart of a suburban community to Raleigh. The interest in this kind of economical, sustaining, and enriching living is catching fire, especially in light of the shifting economy and political climate. We also want to make a lighter footprint on the earth and mentor the younger generations. Anyone interested should visit our website and contact us at cohousing@mindspring.com

    by Kayelily Middleton — May 10, 2017

  16. For those who want to know if there are any cohousing communities near them should go to cohousing.org website and their directory by state. Most cohousing communities have “interest lists” you can get on to be notified if a home comes up for sale which is not often because this kind of community living is very desirable. That is why we are starting our own–none available nearby. The downtown Durham coho that opened in 2014 has 300+ people on their interest list.

    by Kayelily Middleton — May 10, 2017

  17. If you want to find a cohousing community, look at Cohousing USA, http://www.cohousing.org, for a listing of existing and forming communities by state.

    by Linda — May 10, 2017

  18. Sara and Martha,
    Hey Sara, there is a directory of existing cohosouing communities and ones that are forming as well as a lot more info about cohousing. Here is the link to the directory http://www.cohousing.org/directory Also, here is more info about Kathryn McCamant & Charles Durrett, who brought the concept to America. http://www.cohousingco.com/cohousing

    Hope this helps.

    by huntley — May 10, 2017

  19. We moved Kayelily’s comment from a different blog to this one for a better fit:

    There are now 160+ cohousing communities in the US and Canada. Senior cohousing communities are springing up all over as the economy tightens and the political climate becomes unsettled in this second decade of the 21st century. We are one year into forming out Active Adult Cohousing Community in Wake County NC. We are employing the experts in the field, Katie McCamant and Chuck Durrett, to guide us in our endeavor. There is a formula to follow and milestones along the way to accomplish. Quimper Village, a senior retirement cohousing community in Port Townsend WA, has admirably accomplished their cohousing community in 3 years and will be moving into their homes in Fall of 2017. Many of us cohousers and cohousing pioneers will be convening in Nashville TN on May 20 2017 for our National Cohousing Conference.
    by Kayelily Middleton — May 10, 2017

    by Admin — May 11, 2017

  20. Firstly, I’d like to plug an upcoming senior cohousing roadmap intensive on May 19 in Nashville, TN. Cohousing architect Chuck Durrett and members of Quimper Village will take participants through the process of starting and finishing a cohousing project. Participants will come out of this workshop knowing how to take the next steps. If you want to sign up for “Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Starting a New Community”, go to http://www.cohousing.org/2017

    Creating a senior cohousing can be one of the most rewarding things that you will ever do, if you do it right. The “disadvantages” listed in the original article should be listed as “challenges” because, if a group works with professionals who have helped other groups and if members learn the key skills in conflict management (which is part of the process of creating cohousing,) these can be overcome.

    Economically senior cohousing just makes sense, especially for middle-class older adults who want to age in place and have some say in their aging scenario. Art Okner of Silver Sage Cohousing in Boulder, CO has done a lot of research into the affordability question. You can read his findings in this article: The True Costs of Senior Housing (http://www.cohousing.org/node/4864) or by scheduling a phone call with him. When it comes down to affordability and the social benefits, senior cohousing is way ahead of the game.

    There is a lot to be clarified in terms of what groups a cohousing community works for. Though we’d like to live next to our golfing buddies, that alone should not be a reason to start a senior cohousing community for golfers. Instead, a senior cohousing should be created by people who want a community of individuals who value breaking bread together often, having coffee on the front porch and helping others, knowing that the community supports one another.

    If you haven’t already, read The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living (https://www.newsociety.com/Books/S/The-Senior-Cohousing-Handbook-2nd-Edition) by Chuck Durrett. It gives essential information that every forming and/or formed group should know.

    by Lindy — May 11, 2017

  21. We have 2 sets of friends moving to cohousing communities. One is moving to Shepherd’s Village in West Virginia. It is a brand new one in the very interesting college town of Shepherdstown. https://www.topretirements.com/reviews/West%20Virginia/Shepherdstown/Shepherd%20Village.html The other couple has lived quite a few years in Pilgrim Place in Claremont, CA. http://www.topretirements.com/reviews/California/Claremont/Pilgrim%20Place.html You wouldn’t think of Pilgrim Place as a conventional cohousing community, but it really is. There is a shared meal every day and there is much institutionalized interaction.

    by Ken — May 28, 2017

  22. There is a really interesting article in the New York Times by Tom Verde about cohousing this week, “There’s Community and Consensus, but No Commune”. It has a good overview of how the movement started and has quotes from people who live in some of them. One of them is Pioneer Valley Cohousing in Amherst, MA. Cohousing is definitely not for everybody, but it does have its attractions. One thing it is really good at is combatting loneliness and isolation that is such a serious problem for many retirees. Worth a read. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/20/business/cohousing-communities.html

    by Admin — January 22, 2018

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment