Monday, April 9, 2012

More Updates: Building a Community

Initially, I had big plans for building a community in Austin. I wanted to buy two acres of land and sell off pieces of it to friends. When I talked to a developer about the idea, he scoffed and asked, "Do you know how hard it is to develop land in Austin?" (due to all the regulations, added expense of bringing utilities and water to the houses, etc.). That's when I started thinking about the "N Street" model of cohousing where adjacent neighbors start tearing down their fences (although in my modified version, we would buy and build upon adjacent lots).

During that time, I met a man who had bought an acre of land in Austin, built a house upon it, and then subdivided the remaining half acre into three lots (each 6,000 square feet). His vision was nearly identical to my own, but we disagreed on the drug use issue, so it didn't feel like the right fit for our family.

We went back to searching for adjacent lots in a pre-existing neighborhood and exploring other options, such as living in a planned community, moving into a regular neighborhood and facilitating community, etc.

Meanwhile, our realtor kept looking for vacant lots. I would dutifully drive by the ones she really liked. While on one of those journeys, I came across a really neat little pocket of East Austin. It's not too far off the main roads, and yet it feels like the country with cows and horses. There are two-acre plots of land for sale that seem pretty reasonable.

I keep going back to the original vision. What if Matt and I could afford to buy one of those 2-acre plots and build a house on it? Yes, it would stretch us a ton initially, but, over time, we could get the land officially subdivided and sell off the other pieces. Plus, in a couple years, my salary will most likely increase when I transition from part-time back to full-time employment as a school principal.

We're still thinking, thinking. We're asking a lot of questions, exploring different options, and seeing what feels right. We're not in a rush, except that interest rates are just so low right now.

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Julia said...

Can you say some more about how you had a discussion about drugs? I'm interested in cohousing myself and very uncomfortable with drug use (because of history of abuse in my family) and I'm expecting to have to make some tough decisions in regards to finding the right community.

Sara E. Cotner said...

It was definitely awkward to ask, Julia! But I figured if we were going to live in community together, I should get comfortable with having difficult conversations. I said something like, "I don't mean to sound like a total prude, but do you do drugs? I'm not asking as a judgement; I'm just thinking about my one year-old son and what he'll be exposed to in the community around him."

Something like that. It felt totally awkward, but I had to ask. It ended up being a huge reason we didn't want to live there.

Wishing you the very best with your search!

Julia said...

Thank you! That's helpful.

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