Most early cohousing community projects in the United States were self-developed. The community begins to form and takes on the roles typically taken by professional developers – perhaps using Developer consultants or perhaps by learning enough about development to do it on their own or having enough development-like experience within the emerging group. Some feel that this Do-It-Yourself attitude and associated sense of achievement “really builds community,” others believe this is why so many forming groups disappear without creating new communities – both are probably true.
Ask anyone who has helped to self-develop an established cohousing community… It is very challenging to simultaneously:
- Build community
- Arrange financing for a housing project
- Locating and purchasing a site
- Dealing with a wide variety of design considerations
- and managing the myriad of all the details and risks involved in complex projects.
Some companies have begun to try a new approach, sometimes called Developer-led cohousing – it is sometimes, more frighteningly, labeled “building a cohousing community, on-spec.”
In the idealized version of this model, the developer, typically an established business with experience in housing development, independently takes the early steps to identify and option a suitable site, conducts the required feasibility studies, and then begins to recruit an initial core group based on the site and early cost estimates. While some developers offer community-building support, the primary responsibility for the Community vision, values, and practices are held by the emerging group that will ultimately live in the developed housing, while responsibility for the creating the housing itself, including items 2-5 (above) lies with the Cohousing developer.