We thought about writing the concept of cohousing, oh so many times, but it's so complicated and hard to explain in a way that won't put people to sleep, that we've steered clear of it. Until now. The Times tackled the topic this weekend and came up with the killer angle: because of the credit crunch, developers would rather sell a project to a group of people following a super-progressive, egalitarian housing concept that comes from Denmark in the 1980s. If that doesn't say something about the Brooklyn development market we don't know what does. The short version of co-housing is that it's a place where people pool resources to build a project that is "a place where neighbors sit down to share meals several times a week, where children roam freely from home to home, and where grown-ups can hang out in a communal living room." (All the details are on the group's website.) It's a "village within a single development" and the site the group has come upon in a failed project called Carlton Mews in Fort Greene.
Here's the money quote:
The recent economic downturn may actually have created an opportunity for this type of project. A developer who can sell an entire project to a single entity runs a lower risk than one who has to sell individual units. Banks may also appreciate that while a developer may have trouble selling unbuilt condos, the cohousing group expects to sell almost all of the project before construction begins.There's a loooong way to go and all the original investors could lose their shirts if the project falls apart.The spaces would range from studios to four-bedrooms and will sell for market rate. Bad news: Less square footage than similar NYC apartments because of smaller kitchens and living rooms because people can use common space. (Getting the communal concept?) Also, less spare bedrooms because there will be common ones for visiting guests. There are 14 member households that have each committed $20,000 to $40,000 and another 25 households that have paid $500 and agreed to attend weekly meetings. Alex Marshall, who works with the Regional Plan Association, says the goal is to get full members to complete the purchase and get a construction loan to start building in the spring with move in by 2010. Maybe we can call it the Fort Green Kibbutz Mews but without the chores?
· A Village Down the Block [NYT]
· Utopia in the City [Brownstoner]
· Brooklyn Cohousing [brooklyncohousing.org]