Frequently Asked Questions
The River Song Cohousing neighborhood has formed with one more unit available (see What do Units look like), so this is a great time to get involved. We know that the decision to join a cohousing community is a major life decision, so we have a mentoring process to help you decide whether River Song is a good fit for you and your family. Here are some common questions about cohousing in general and River Song in particular.
Who is the architect?
Our architect of record is Charles Durrett, nationally recognized cohousing architect. Our project consultants include Kathryn McCamant, with her firm CoHousing Solutions, as well as certified Cohousing Consultant, Shelly Parks, with affiliate CoVision Consulting. Chuck and Katie have brought dozens of cohousing projects to completion. Shelley is passionate about supporting groups as they organize to “Get It Built” and shares a wealth of experience and expertise marketing and sales. Urban Development & Partners – UD&P – is our developer partner. UD&P has helped a number of cohousing groups through the development process to getting built. Our local Project Manager is architect Will Dixon, who is also a full member of River Song Cohousing.
What exactly is cohousing?
Cohousing residents own their individual private homes. These are arranged to allow neighbors to easily share activities and facilities, such as the large Common House, while at the same time protecting everyone’s privacy. There are no shared financial arrangements, apart from HOA fees to cover expenses of shared facilities and grounds. There are no shared religious or spiritual beliefs. Legally and financially, RSC will be a conventional condominium development. But there are two big differences: cohousing units are designed by the future residents, and residents decide how they will govern themselves and make decisions. In addition, residents are expected to stay actively involved in the community so that it continues to represent their values and goals to be a more sustainable, cooperative neighborhood.
How do cohousing communities govern themselves?
In most cohousing communities, decisions are made by consensus whenever feasible. River Song Cohousing has adopted a consensus model. Please contact us for details.
How did you decide how many units to build?
The costs for many ingredients are fixed: land cost, engineers, site preparation, design, government approvals and more. In addition, we knew we wanted a large Common House as the center of the community. We encountered many communities with 25-30 households who felt they had the ideal size.
What about local access to the greenway and bike path?
These will be preserved in a way that also protects the privacy and safety of River Song Cohousing. For more details, contact us.
What do the River Song units look like?
The actual design of the homes came out of a design workshop with our architect Charles Durrett working closely with us to determine how to best meet our many different needs. Cohousing homes tend to be smaller than conventional homes because of the ample shared spaces in the Common House. We have clustered the homes in buildings of two-to-five homes. There are two-bedroom, three-bedroom and four-bedroom units. Please contact us for more information.
How were the home prices determined?
Usually this question is paired with a comparison to much cheaper apartments and houses of comparable size. And believe us, we all wondered about this, too! There are several parts to the answer. First, we are building new homes. New construction involves current prices for materials and labor; in the past 2-3 years the prices of materials and labor have increased. In addition, we will be building greener homes than most homes on the market. Green building is not cheap, but we want to be as green as we can afford. Finally, we are building a substantial Common House, nearly 4,000 square feet, as well as a big bike shed. It will be furnished extensively to support a wide variety of activities. The Common House cost is spread across the cost of all the units.
When considering the cost of your home, it is important to also consider your day-to-day living expenses. People living in cohousing neighborhoods find that many of their other expenses decrease—everything from childcare and driving expenses to energy bills and tools. For example, we’ll only need one lawnmower in cohousing, and laundry machines will be provided in the Common House for those who don’t feel the need to own their own.
What will be the legal structure of the property?
The project will be structured as a condominium association, so you would own your own unit, plus an undivided share of the Common House and all common areas. You would be responsible for your own property taxes, for example, and for paying a monthly HOA fee to cover maintenance and operating expenses, etc., for the Common House and common areas.
When will construction be complete?
Why don’t you build the housing units first and wait until you have more money to build the Common House?
We thought about this. The Common House involves a substantial commitment, but we feel it is integral to the community.
What if I want to sell my cohousing home?
It’s your home and you may sell it at any time you like and to whomever you please, subject to the usual real estate laws. The new owner becomes part of the HOA and must abide by the HOA’s rules and regulations. As soon as all the homes are sold, we will establish and maintain a waiting list of potential buyers. Then if a member needs to sell, there will be a group of eager buyers to work with. Of course, we must abide by all fair housing regulations, just like any other condo association.
Will there be rental units?
Unit owners will be able to rent their units with the agreement of the community. Details have been discussed, at this point no units will be set aside as rentals. Please contact us for more information.
Will there be common meals?
The group will make these decisions, but cohousing communities typically have one or more voluntary meals per week, with responsibility for preparing the meals and cleaning up afterward rotated among the residents who are willing and able to provide such services. Common House meals are always voluntary.
Will there be space for a common vegetable garden?
What about storage?
The homes have been designed with lots of space for storage. In addition, some members have purchased a garage for storage. Others will use an extra bedroom for this purpose. As the Common House will have one or more guest rooms, this becomes more possible.
Most members are looking forward to downsizing their possessions in response to the reduced living space as well as the desire to live simply. We plan on having a bike shed for housing bicycles and kayaks, canoes, etc. The community will likely decide on a tool shop in which equipment can be stored and shared.
Will all the homes be handicap-accessible?
The Common House and ground level home entries are adaptable.
Will I have privacy with so much common space?
Cohousing balances public and private space. Your home, including front and back outdoor areas, is still your private domain.
What about noise?
Our architect uses materials that minimize noise between homes. Floor-ceiling noise is a bit harder to deal with, but every effort will be made to minimize noise in this direction as well.
Would residents be able to share vehicles and other resources?
Sharing resource and skills is a hallmark of cohousing. That said, each community develops its own policies on such matters as car sharing.
How is River Song organized?
An LLC (Limited Liability Company) was formed in April 2012, and full members become part of the LLC. When the project is complete, the LLC will be dissolved, and we will form an HOA (Home Owners’ Association)
Is there an agreement that every member or household contributes time in an endeavor that moves the project forward?
All members, full and associate, are expected to attend meetings and participate on one or more teams to move the project forward.
What if I travel or have more limited time/physical ability to do community work?
The group has not yet talked about how we will handle the commitment to contribute time to the maintenance of community life, but a hallmark of cohousing is shared governance and maintenance of the neighborhood. It may be that folks who travel can take on work that can be done from a distance, such as website maintenance. Folks with physical limitations will have lots of options for contributing in ways within their capacities. Please contact us for more information.
Is there a business plan and budget for the entire project?
Katie McCamant, our project consultant, has supplied us with an overall budget, and the Finance/Legal team communicates with her as we go so that the budget can be continually fine-tuned. Katie is also responsible for helping us identify our critical path, and the Coordinating team is responsible for tracking this.
What about the flood plain?
About 1/3 of the property is flood plain. Any structures built on this portion of the property will be built on fill above the official 100-year flood plain line.
Is it considered a wetland?
The River Song site has not been designated a wetland.
What about safety on the bike path?
The bike path is owned by the City of Eugene, which is responsible for enforcing safety on the bike path. We consider one of the great assets of this property is its access to the bike path and open space along the river. Many of us already use this path for our regular commutes.
How will River Song Cohousing affect traffic on McClure Lane and Oakleigh Lane?
There will be no car access to the development from McClure Lane. The parking lot will be accessed at the end of Oakleigh Lane. We are planning for guest parking in our parking lot to minimize guest parking on Oakleigh Lane.
Will Oakleigh Lane be annexed to the city? Won’t that raise the neighbors’ taxes?
Only the property owned by the cohousing community needs to be annexed to the city, and this has been accomplished. Neighbors on Oakleigh Lane and McClure Lane will not need to be annexed because no new construction is happening there.
Why are homes in River Song Cohousing more expensive per square foot than average homes in the area?
It is true that the homes in River Song Cohousing are more expensive per square foot than the average home in the neighborhood. But it’s difficult to do a direct per-square-foot comparison because buying into cohousing is so much more than buying a conventional home. New housing generally costs more than existing homes, especially since the recession has held housing costs below the cost to build. So, while it is important to be aware of comparative prices in the area, it is also important to be aware that comparing home prices of single family homes and cohousing homes based on square footage is like comparing apples to oranges.
Why does River Song have a developer-partner?
One of the biggest benefits of a developer-partner is the help they can provide in securing a construction loan, but there can other benefits as well. We appreciate the privilege of having Urban Planners & Developers (UD&P) as developer-partner. They have experience with cohousing communities, and therefore respect the nature of working with a group using consensus decision-making in the development business practice, and they believe in the concept of cohousing. (Similarly, we are happy to work with and our builder, too, Essex General Construction, a well-respected, local builder, who has an appreciation of cohousing.)
How can I find out more about River Song Cohousing?
Contact us via this website or call us at 541-357-8303. Please leave a message, and we’ll call you back. We also offer monthly Sunday informational meetings, with optional site visits.