Cooperative house building in Boston
August 17, 2014 6:26 PM   Subscribe

How might I go about building a (big, cooperative) house in Boston?

Remember this? Well, we're totally doing it. We've been considering buying a cheap triple-decker and fixing it up, but we recently discovered that there is city land to be had in Boston for half price, if this website is for real. So we started thinking we might be able to build something that would suit our needs, but we have no idea where to even start thinking about how to price a project like that out to see if it's feasible.

We've partnered with a nonprofit, so we're tax-exempt. Will that help us? Are there developers who work with nonprofits (and are maybe less expensive)? Architects? What kinds of grants are available for nonprofits or individuals who are building houses (green energy, for example)? What other questions do I need to ask? Can you answer them?

Some possibly relevant information: This won't be like cohousing; the nonprofit will own the house in perpetuity. We're looking for land that's walking distance to the T, and it appears to be available in Roxbury and Dorchester, which we are fine with. Some of us just moved to Fort Hill and we love it. We're planning to build something pretty big -- at least 12 bedrooms. We are all solidly middle income folks; we don't qualify for assistance, but we are not made of money. The coop is specifically kid-friendly, and our nonprofit focus is on expanding the availability of kid-friendly cooperative housing in Boston.
posted by woodvine to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Talk to people who have done it. Check your PM.
posted by canine epigram at 7:24 PM on August 17, 2014

I'm not personally familiar with them, but the folks at Lucy Stone Cooperative might be able to help since they are a) also owned by a non-profit and b) in Roxbury. They're a religious based coop (Unitarian Universalist, which is why I know of them) but they seem otherwise similar to what you're trying.
posted by booksherpa at 7:36 PM on August 17, 2014

Response by poster: We're in touch with the folks at Lucy Stone, but they bought their house -- they didn't build it. I'm interested in hearing from people who know about building houses when you're a nonprofit.
posted by woodvine at 7:47 AM on August 18, 2014

The folks at Camelot Co-Housing in Berlin, MA might be able to help. They're not doing exactly what you're doing -- they do co-housing with individual units and a shared common house -- but they did build from scratch and have a ton of experience with the legal and permitting end of things. I believe they do have a NPO arm, although I'm not certain of that. I do know that they love to talk about the project, and most of the founders are still active and involved.
posted by anastasiav at 11:04 AM on August 18, 2014

I was also going to suggest connecting with cohousing folks. I know of a few developments in the Seattle area, and while googling I found this directory. Looks like they also connect to a site for intentional communities, which may be more up your alley? In any event, good luck, sounds like an awesome project!
posted by Sublimity at 3:50 PM on August 18, 2014

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