Earthdaughter's Blog

Mar. 26, 2008 at 12:34pm

Cohousing community

Looking for members in Tacoma!

We have an opportunity to turn a remodeled apartment building and two adjacent lots into a condo-style, cohousing community.  This is at S Earnest S. Brazill (12th) and J.  Units would be affordable.  There are 12 units plus an office unit.  The two adjoining properties could be renovated or replaced with new, townhouse-type units.  Decisions are made by the members.  We can create a welcoming community in which to grow up or grow older!  To learn more about cohousing in general or this one in particular, check out the link before.

What we need are enthusiastic members able to purchase their own unit (est. at $125-175,000 for 1-2 bedroom units).  Available as rentals in the next few weeks with conversion to condos when we get enough members.  We also need an innovative-thinking mortgage company to help us buy the properties from the present owner.


comments [12]  |  posted under affordable condos, cohousing, community


by drizell on 3/26/2008 @ 8:50pm
Cohousing and coops have proven to be very successful in other parts of the country, especially in very expensive places. Many of the apartments in New York City have this type of organization. If you wonder how you could pay only $150,000 for a condo in NYC, it's probably in a coop or cohousing building.

Many people in Tacoma have been clamoring for more affordable condos for a long time. Looks like this may be an opportunity for those folks. I'm definitely interested but I'm not sure about my long-term plans at the moment. I'm in job-search mode right now, if I get a new job relatively close to or in T-Town...

by Jake on 3/26/2008 @ 9:16pm
I'm not to familiar with co-ops but what would be the benefit of this building over the 1 bedrooms down J Street selling for $135k or the 2 bedrooms in the area selling for $160k?

by Erik on 3/26/2008 @ 9:29pm
We have an opportunity to turn a remodeled apartment building and two adjacent lots into a condo-style, cohousing community.

Great idea. I think Derek Young had always longed to pull something like that off.

Web link

Your link does not appear to be working.

I'm not to familiar with co-ops but what would be the benefit of this building over the 1 bedrooms down J Street selling for $135k or the 2 bedrooms in the area selling for $160k?

Jake's got a good point. There may be better deals out there. The Mecca is selling for just under 200k. Gintz is selling condos for 88k and there are a slew of independent condos in the 100k range.

As Jake points out, there are houses for sale in the 100k range in the area.

One would think co-housing would be at a discount than a premium to the market. Perhaps its the additional two lots and office unit that are spiking the price.

by Earthdaughter on 3/27/2008 @ 7:35am
Thanks for your posts. Cohousing members own their own units and then share common areas such as a garden, workshop, etc. We work as a community. South Sound Cohousing doesn't have a website yet since we just got going again but you can read about other intentional communities (some of which are cohousing) and link to our listing at We don't own the building yet since there are only the two households so far. The prices were suggested by the present owner. If we can get a group of interested people, we may be able to bring the price down. He's looking for $1.3 (which might be high in today's market) for the whole package. With 12 families, that would be $108. If we renovated or replaced the two separate houses which are structurally sound but trashed inside by squatters we could add several more members. The owner wants to get his money back (don't we all!) but nothing has been set in stone yet. Cohousing isn't for everyone, but is great for some of us who miss living in connection with others. Personally, I've lived alone too long and miss "family".

by Erik on 3/27/2008 @ 9:02am
Cohousing members own their own units and then share common areas such as a garden, workshop, etc. We work as a community.

Good idea. Bellingham has a some co-housing units set up in Fairhaven I think.

by KayKay on 3/28/2008 @ 7:54am
If you search "intentional communities" on google, you will find an extensive variety of co-housing and intentional communities listed. Seems like a much more humane way to live, being that we are social creatures.

Fairhaven in Bellingham has become very 'gentrified' with upscale condos consumming the once quaint center of the neighborhood.

by Jake on 3/28/2008 @ 8:52am
It looks like he wants his money back plus some. He bought the building in 2006 for $625,000. Has the building been upgraded since then? I see it is still on the Filthy 15 as a derelict building.

by jenyum on 3/28/2008 @ 9:27am
In this market I'm not sure why your cohousing group wouldn't want to get together and buy a block of condos in the 27th Street Station complex.

They'll be all rehabbed already and ready to go, and one bedrooms start under 100k, according to the Gintz Group website, which has lower prices than the 27th St website.

There's some green space around the complex that needs the love of some caring residents, and the neighborhood could use some families home during the day. I drove around there recently and thought that it wasn't something I'd choose on my own, but with a cohousing group there could be sort of an instant community.

Before you think about new construction, I'd seriously consider an option like that. My brother was part of a cohousing group in Seattle in the 90s, and it was far more expensive to get their units built than anyone had anticipated. Then with all the required community participation they ended up having personality conflicts and leaving, anyway. I guess I like the idea of cohousing in theory, but in practice it seems like a better idea to live somewhere where you like your neighbors but aren't necessarily required to dine with them once a week.

by Earthdaughter on 3/29/2008 @ 12:14am
To Jake: Yes, the six units at 1004 have been completely renovated inside. All new fixtures, appliances, laminate flooring, etc. I'll be posting photos on the listing for South Sound Cohousing. They'll be starting on the other half as soon as they get the basement laundry room ready.

Jenyum: I like the location farther uptown. I've lived by Bates for 4 years and work at the Municipal Bldg. so this was a good location. Any new construction would be the decision of the members after we get enough to buy out the owner. Jake's correct on what he paid for it in 2006. We would be buying the two lots on J St also - either to rehab or replace.

I also like the plans (though they haven't been completed) for the old church across J St. Supposed to become a dance/music/arts center for Tacoma Arts. I haven't heard back on what's stalling those plans.

Cohousing communities can run into personality conflicts just like any other "family". But hopefully there are enough people with the wisdom and the skills to resolve the conflicts. While there are some required community contributions (which you'd have in a condo association also), I wouldn't support any requirement to dine together ever! Community meals, as we discussed them, were always optional and the food was fantastic!

And as I said, until we actually get ownership of the property, we won't know how low we can get the prices. I'm not going into this as a way to make money. I want the costs to be as low as feasible. I believe pooling resources can be very cost-effective and much more fun than "bowling alone".

If anyone is interested in joining us, let's figure a way to talk in person. If you want to form a cohousing group at 27th St, go for it! I applaud and will support your efforts. But I'm working on this site because it just feels right and I'm learning to trust my inner wisdom.

by solriou on 3/30/2008 @ 10:18pm
As Earthdaughter stated,"Cohousing is not for everyone."

It is for people who want to share dinner, because it is fun to eat together, especially if you don't have to pay restaurant prices and it is right next door to your home. It is for people who celebrate diversity, welcoming personality conflicts as opportunities to learn about people and things that are new and different from where they have been in the past.

It is not "a cheaper way" to live, but it is based on sharing possessions to reduce consumption and increase cooperation. I have loved living in Vashon Cohousing and numerous shared housing situations through the years.

I am excited about the property that Earthdaughter has found and the possibilities that we have been discussing regarding how to further develop the adjacent lots to the apartment building. This is the fundamental difference between buying houses next to a friend and cohousing, we get to develop the layout of our physical space based on the belief that living in community is more fun than living alone or in traditional families.

Sound like something that you might want for your family? Google up "cohousing" and let's meet sometime and discuss your hopes and your worries!

by Erik on 3/30/2008 @ 11:57pm
There's some green space around the complex that needs the love of some caring residents, and the neighborhood could use some families home during the day.

Yes. That complex does have potential for a fairly large "co-housing" compound. Plus, Gintz is already setting up the condo association agreements. There also looks to be a significant amount of land do so something with.

The ones in Fairhaven (Bellingham) were built specifically for co-housing and had common meal areas. Every once in a while, we would hear about some highly visible dispute they would have. However, I think can still work for people who want to build a close "community" in that way.

They have to be formed well though to have a relatively easy way for people to enter and leave (sell) or sell or the entire "co-housing" arrangement can fall apart.

Keep us informed how it goes Earthdaughter. Your group might encourage others to do the same.

by Earthdaughter on 3/31/2008 @ 7:03am
Thanks, Sol and Erik for your posts. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm going to "out" Sol as the other member of South Sound Cohousing!!! And my name is Patricia and it's okay to call me that. Earthdaughter is the name I use on singles sites. In fact, singles - at least somewhat enlightened ;-) - in their 50s and 60s are encouraged to check us out! But we want to have a range of ages, family compositions, ethnicities and walks of life. The common denominator will be a commitment to community. (Financial ability to buy their own unit is also necessary, of course, but it won't matter if the source of funding is from rich parents, personal income or federal subsidy.) As Sol says so well, it's about sharing - common spaces, tools, activities and ourselves! In the broader community, if you have a conflict, you can "take your ball and go home". Here, since you'll see each other on a daily basis, you have the opportunity/necessity to stay and work through the tension in a supportive family. Learning to make decisions by consensus is a powerful tool that I have found useful in other areas of my life.

One other important difference between what we envision and 27th Street Station is that we will have common areas inside as well as out. If we develop the two lots to the south of the apartments into new units, they will likely face north towards the other building and have front porches on the green space. One aspect of cohousing is privacy balanced with easy, casual opportunities for interaction in addition to planned events. The common house is usually situated such that folks pass it on the way to and from parking, etc. Other "conversation nodes" such as arbors, clusters of easy chairs, etc. could also be developed. I also envision events we would host where the community would be invited. I met a musician who lives in the area and immediately thought of hosting a jam for local musicians with a potluck of course! As Jim Diers said so beautifully last week, everyone has gifts which can contribute to community. Our task is to provide "fertile ground" for those seeds to flourish.

Well, this is getting too long! We'd love to talk to anyone who might be interested and will be setting up outreach gatherings soon. Meanwhile, there will be a Cohousing Fair at Songaia Cohousing in Bothell, April 20th from 1-3 pm. Other cohousing groups - both established and forming - will be there too. For more info, check out the link.


I'm trying to find the folks who worked on this garden site in the past. I've met some at various events, but now I can't find them! Or the owner of the property.

As I understood it, the issue that stopped the garden was a broken water pipe. I have a solution to that. What I'd need to make this happen would be permission to do it from the owner, a few people who could help dig some trenches, and someone to agree to take responsibility for the water account. (That wouldn't mean they would have to pay it themselves, necessarily, but TPU will need someone to open the account, probably the owner of the property.)

I have lots of seeds, too, that I'd like to see planted this season since they were generously donated. I am also willing to work some on the garden, but I'm still in the process of purchasing the property on S J St. so won't have a lot of time.

So if you want to be part of this lovely garden site again, or for the first time, and can put me in touch with the owner, etc., please email me at

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