Cohousing trends

Here are some basic facts about intentional communities from this past summer’s National Cohousing Conference.

1. Cohousing is growing:

There are now over 12,000 web site visits from 85 different communities

A new monthly magezine that has introductions into the cohousing market, professional directory, elderly cohousing, membership finding, community marketing and forums.

2. Communities completed

As of summer 2008, there are are 113 completed cohousing communities, with 5,576 cohousing residents. There are currently 94 new cohousing projects in formation.

Average number of units: 24. Average size: 51 people

Cohousing in urban settings: 40%; rural: 21%; suburban: 17%, small town: 22%

3. General Observations

Cohousing will continue to grow in this fashion for at least the next 10 years, probably will the increased help from governments, trusts and foundations. These organizations are beginning to observe how cohousing is an investment in communities on a mircro level, and good for the environment and government at the macro.

This article reflects a growing trend of developers securing construction loans for cohousing. The $7 million cohousing development, Columbia Ecovillage, is under construction in Northeast Portland is one “unusual” condominium project that developers are make loans to. A couple converted five old, delapitated apartment buildings into 37 condos on 3.7 acres–with room for a guest house and permaculture garden.

“Right now, condo is the big bad word,” said Joe Leitch, who founded the Portland Permaculture Institute with his wife, Pam, at the site four years ago. “To sell in this market right now you need to provide something really special.”

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for this type of product,” said Bonnie Anderson, a commercial real estate lender with ShoreBank Pacific that’s providing the construction loan for the project.

ShoreBank has also invested in two other nontraditional commercial housing projects since the housing market went bust last year: DayBreak, a high-density cohousing project in Northeast Portland and owner-occupied Cabana Apartments in inner Southeast Portland.

“People buying the units are emotionally and economically invested; they’re not flipping a unit,” said Anderson. “In a cohousing project, they’re developing a group to sell to. It’s a lot less speculative.”

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