CoHousing Solutions Newsletter | June 2019
June is LGBT Pride Month, so in this newsletter we wanted to talk about Village Hearth Cohousing, who is making strides for LGBT retirement options
Village Hearth is an LGBT-focused, ages 55+, community in Durham, North Carolina. Their community members are gay and straight, single and coupled, working and retired, representing a variety of professions and interests, and come from all over the country.

Village Hearth is the first LGBT focused cohousing community, providing a much needed niche for those who are regularly discriminated against in the housing market. Retirement communities and nursing homes do not always welcome LGBT people, and SAGE’s “Out & Visible” survey  shows that many older LGBTs go back into the closet for fear of discrimination in healthcare and nursing homes. The need for a community like this was recognized when people from all over began buying into Village Hearth and moving from various corners of the US, to Durham, NC to be part of the community.

Village Heath is now under construction, and the community members have worked extremely hard to get to this point. Our President, Katie McCamant, has been with them every step of the way, guiding them through the development process and finding the right professionals for the job. They have engaged McCamant & Durrett as their architects, and Louis Goetz of Park City Development as their development partner. Tractors are moving and the community is preparing to move in next Spring. If Village Hearth sounds like the community for you, now is the time to buy. You may have missed the battle over loans and land, but you are still in time to be part of the exciting move-in process and the establishment of a brand new community.
Getting it Built
Like so many other communities, Village Hearth had a challenging time securing their construction loan. Katie McCamant has taken the time to tell the story. . .

The Story Behind the Village Hearth Construction Loan, and Importance of the Role of Professionals
by Katie McCamant

I wasn’t at the groundbreaking, and I didn’t get to share in the champagne toasting, but no one was more excited than I was about the closing of the $7,000,000+ Village Hearth construction loan from the National Coop Bank. I have been working with the community founders, Pat and Margaret, since 2015. I was the first on the phone with them when they found the property on Infinity Road, and since then I have been advising them while they are doing the hard work on the ground. I can personally attest to how hard they worked to finally see their community being raised from the ground up.
The story of Village Hearth and their construction loan really begins over 20 years ago when we were first talking about financing for cohousing groups. I have been working with the National Coop Bank (NCB) since the 90’s, back before they were willing to consider loans for anything other than coops. At the time, California laws and regulations made coops more expensive to develop than condos and with a greater risk of limited financing options. So we did not move forward with NCB at that time.
I was pleased when NCB showed up at the 2015 National Cohousing Conference in Durham, and was was anxious to see if they would finally consider construction loans for cohousing - even though most cohousing projects are not legally coops. During the conference, I met Robert Jenkens of NCB, and was able to talk to him about cohousing on a personal level. Robert became a thoughtful advocate for cohousing at NCB, making the introductions and connections that would allow the bank to better understand what it means to work with cohousing communities. Over the course of that fall I began working with him on the first NCB construction loan for a cohousing project, Fair Oaks EcoHousing in California. Our excitement and hopefulness was swept away with disappointment when the deal fell apart over the holidays. NCB still had its reservations, and in the end the project was too big of a loan, too far away, and without a seasoned developer guaranteeing the loan.
Three years later, it was time to find find a construction loan for Village Hearth. This time there were other successful cohousing communities in the region, we had a seasoned developer on board, and 24 out of the 28 homes were pre-sold, raising over $1,000,000 in equity. I thought that finding financing would be a slam dunk, but the local banks weren't stepping up. So, on a whim, I sent it to NBC.
This time it was the right project with the right qualifications, and a compelling mission; senior cohousing for LGBTs, friends and allies. Because of all the hard work put into the Fair Oaks EcoHousing project, the bank already understood how cohousing works and what was needed for a viable construction loan. In 2019, Village Hearth became the first cohousing project financed by the NCB. Because of this project's success, we now have a basis to work off of with the NCB, and I am optimistic that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between National Coop Bank and the cohousing world.
As cohousers, we understand the need for more cohousng communities, but we are also experts on the trials and tribulations of getting communities built. Although there were already several successful cohousing communities in the region, Village Hearth faced its own difficult path, and hit many hiccups along the way. To me, this story highlights one of our biggest challenges in furthering the development of cohousing communities. It has been such a grassroots movement, that there is little carry over between projects. Cohousing projects are mostly “one offs,” with most residents just glad to move in and leave the world of real estate development behind forever. But in real estate development, as well as most other businesses, it is beneficial to be able to build on the relationships you've built over a career.  

It is necessary that we continue to develop not only communities, but a professional cohousing culture. Like in any job field, the professionals are the ones that build long-term relationships, relationships that may not pay off for this current project, but perhaps for a future project. That is true for site search, for financing, for appraisers, for all of the professionals you interact with at one point or another to get a cohousing project built. My relationship with NCB dating back to the 90s, my early communications with Robert Jenkens, and our collaboration on the original Fair Oaks EcoHousing contract are what laid the ground work for the Village Hearth Project, and all the collaborations to come.

This is one of my inspirations for the 500 Communities Program, to train professionals who want to work in the various aspects of cohousing and collaborative development in every region of North America. For cohousing to spread, we need people everywhere who can carry forward the relationships, the contacts, and the lessons learned for future communities. 

If you are in a career that relates - or could relate - to the development of cohousing communities, I encourage you to consider how you might be able to incorporate the cohousing world into your profession. Cohousing can only to continue to grow if more people are able to become cohousing professionals, and continue to lay the groundwork for future communities.
Why is it important?
This couple is showing us just how important it is that we continue building communities like Village Hearth
The photo above shows Bev Nance, and Mary Walsh. They have been happily married for 10 years, and together for approximately 40. Like so many cohousers, the couple was looking for housing options that would allow them to age in place among friends and community.

When their application to Friendship Village Senior Living Facility was denied because their marriage was not "understood by the Bible", the couple decided to fight against the organization's discriminatory policies. To everyone's dismay, the Federal judge appointed to their case upheld the decision made by Friendship Village.

The LGBT retirement population is frequently met with discriminatory policies, making aging peacefully a pipe dream for so many people. Communities like Village Hearth are changing the game, creating intentional, non-discriminatory communities that facilitate safety, friendship, and community while peacefully aging in place.
A Unique Opportunity to Live in Cohousing
We're Here to Help!
We provide development consulting services to help you create your sustainable neighborhood . Our team pioneered the development of cohousing in North America, and we have helped create dozens of successful communities.
Our newest venture involves training passionate cohousing entrepreneurs through the year-long 500 Communities Program .
Photo by Ed Asmus
Architecture by McCamant & Durrett Architects
CoHousing Solutions
(530) 478-1970
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