Building monetary and social value
An integral part of our mission, is to provide, from an investment perspective, a long term returns on investment with economic returns that match or exceed traditional housing. A related goal is to create a project that is affordable across diverse population and income and has ample opportunity for income generation on site with home grown business while providing an excellent foundation base for working in the area.
Consistent with Local real estate values:
Thanks to a robust economy in the education, computer, health, tourism, environment and manufacturing sectors housing is in high demand in the Burlington, the city itself is leading the area with the average price for homes up 25.8% in a single year, according to Vermont Realtors. These upward increases, along with a general increase in congestion as the area becomes more densely populated is pushing homeowners outward into the county and towns like Huntington that is considered a medium commute to the city. Huntington is well known for its scenic resources and good schools open space, rural character and recreational opportunity. The town has the reputation for being a well-run happy area where people work hard and care about their community.
Chittenden County’s overall sales, according to Vermont Realtors, are up 4.5% while housing inventory is down 24.3% and the medium home price in Chittenden County is $308,000, the average is $355,579.00 or on a par with our costs for a home and land.
Currently real estate has been active on Bert White Hill, three large parcels recently sold on the old White farm along with one very large parcel on the mountain above us. At least two of these sales were directly linked to the ski center’s trail presence, suggesting that the trails are a real estate draw in this area.
When it comes to value, Windekind Farm in history is a good case study. In 1966 we purchased the 200-acre farm for $30,000 with only the farm house on the land. An appraisal was done in 2011, that put an overall value of the Farm at $1,300,000 leading us to conclude that its value is in excess of $1,600,000 today or about 54 times its purchase price.
In summary, we find the current values in Chittenden County and local markets including and the steady increase equity value of the farm, very affirming of our pricing structure, there is nothing we can see that indicates we are overpricing our parcels. In addition, the local economy in Huntington is strong in all sectors, this, more than any factor, insures sustained increases.
Vermont continues to attract a young, progressive, well educated, skilled and entrepreneurially inclined population seeking a greener alternative and less congested areas then other parts of the country. We see no reason why this influx should abate.
We think it is safe to project a growth in equity value on a par with Chittenden County and probably higher when some of the farm’s unique features like the community aspects of the Common and our landscape is factored in.
Windekind’s unique features:
The Green Mountains run North to South in our area which means most properties located in the mountains tend to face East or West. In the case of Windekind, because of a smaller mountain just north of the farm, we face south and east in a concave bowel effect that is ideal for sun. Our landscape is also very diverse which means a broad array of landscape, gardening and recreational opportunities are here.
Our southern exposure affords new residents two important advantages: a stunning view of the mountains south down the valley and lots of exposure to the sun, invaluable for winter warmth and light and in the summer the sun extends our growing season. In addition, all this exposure is nearly ideal for solar opportunity within the buildings and on their roofs.
The farm has a second unique natural features that has been very beneficial. When the glaciers were active in Vermont, it appears that a river was diverted through a cut in the mountains above the farm in the ice fields. This river deposited a huge amount of sand on the eastern side of what is now our Meadow having the effect of significantly smoothing out the area that became the basis of what is now a pretty flat south facing meadow that has been so valuable to us. In addition, this sand area is an ideal location for our septic fields saving us the expensive of constructing a costly mound system. We have enjoyed a supply of sand for building purposes, it will be used for new buildings.
Finally, the farm is located at the end of a 3-mile town road that has the advantages of town services including winter plowing. In addition, our end of the road location has a huge impact on the overall tranquility of the farm because traffic is reduced to a couple of visits a day. In designing the Commons, the road features allowed us to take advantage of the need for access balanced with the intent to keep traffic impact to a minimum.
Trends in housing and community Building
Modern Cohousing and Permaculture designs that we have based much of our design on traces its roots to early design in colonial America, especially Vermont that so perfected Village Design that centered a community around a common green as so well done in Vermont towns like Craftsbury Common and Rochester.
This all changed with the early-production models of suburban housing created by the Levitt brothers and other builders right after World War II. The Suburban model was a natural evolution of the mass-production mind-set that brought our country so much success in winning the war and creating the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s. But like most success stories, too much of a good thing created problems-long commutes, traffic issues, and the “collision” of automobiles with the idea of a walkable neighborhood. Cars and a myriad assortment of other motorized devices needed lots of space to park and all sorts of roadways that were unfriendly to pedestrian traffic and bikes created barriers that separated and isolated people.
Solutions began to emerge in the 1970s and the 1980s—planned developments and planned communities where open space and common facilities were incorporated into neighborhoods to alleviate the negative impact of the automobile. In Vermont, especially Huntington, which placed a huge emphasis on community life and the environment, we put a lot of emphasis on protecting our community centers and neighborhood by keeping community services, like a post office and our schools in our Village centers therefore avoiding sprawl. In the case of the Commons at Windekind, using Planned Unit Development Provisions (PUD), we have been able to incorporate and utilize a neighborhood zone for social interaction and community projects that surrounds our more residential and private areas.
When cohousing which began in Denmark, arrived in the U.S. in the 1980s, it was like adding a whole new dimension. Now, instead of just designing housing from the top down, builders could co-design neighborhoods exactly with the very people who plan to live there or what we call “living design” at Windekind. Cohousing offers individuals and families the opportunity to live in their own private, fully-equipped homes, with extensive common facilities. The presence of these shared amenities allows residents to live in a more compact Cohousing with lower construction and heating costs.
The shared facilities - Common House, gardens, trails and a central green creates more opportunities for interaction than a typical neighborhood. Knowing your neighbors creates opportunities for sharing, mutual support, and community fun. Part of the rational for this process, is that it offers a more attractive and resource-efficient model when we tap into the synergies and creative energy that inevitably arise when many creative minds focus on a single project. And we can better utilize common resources like septic, water supply and open space.
For example, our current members have helped us decide where a lot boundary runs, where a picnic area can be built or create standards for the best building materials to use if our goals to improve efficiency, reduce carbon and create beauty. Together we can design a more sustainable, satisfying lifestyle together and could share not only common facilities and good community outcomes but also our experiences, talents, and aspirations. These experiences of “living design” and their outcomes create a “sense of community and we can affix a monetary value on these outcomes because people need a sense of belonging and part of something as the Amish do in their communities.
There is research that informs the discussion about the value of community.
In 2012 Lee Bartholomew, an appraiser, presented at the National Cohousing Conference, research regarding the market value of cohousing communities versus comparable housing in more traditional communities. His study concluded that cohousing performed between 24% to 112% better than traditional housing, a surprisingly strong number. Later, In a very interesting paper called Market value cohousing, Jim Leach, a builder, concluded that value does better in Cohousing Communities because of the “strength of neighborhood communities ” or what Leach calls the “Soul Factor.” He goes on to define the Soul Factor as “commitment and strength” of the community --- exactly the sense we are trying to create at Windekind.
Communities like the Common are part of the new and growing commitment to a more humanistic and cooperative economic model in the United States and the Western World. It is being demonstrated significant portion of our population is seeking a more cooperative, environmentally friendly and social oriented model like that embraced in Cohousing and the field of Permaculture. This is a social trend that the data suggest is here to stay and will expand in the next few decades.
The growth of cohousing models is telling, since the first cohousing community was completed in the U.S.- Muir Commons in Davis, California, 25 years old - more than 170 communities have been established in 25 states plus the District of Columbia, with more than 125 in process. In our immediate area in Vermont there are six cohousing based communities, only one existed five years ago.
We think that that these trend will never be mainstream, but increasingly in many forms will exist side by side with traditional models as an alternative and in important ways influence mainstream development and planning. The farm will be sought after by potential buyers as a unique model in a part of the country that is already demonstrating a lot of creativity activity and opportunity in the creative housing sector.
We are learning that there is very tangible dynamic that occurs when people cooperate to build a community and reach an understanding of how they will live together. Here at Windekind, we are become an extended family of sorts, in the process we have develop ways of working together, and respecting, building ideas and solving problems seldom achieved in a more traditional community setting. This not only generates the wisdom that comes with good answers to challenging problems but, in addition, satisfaction. We don't think the issues about value are completely about money, but how we seek and build satisfaction with the simple gifts of the world found in nature and each other.
Discovering the synergy that is generated through community and helping each other in ways that go beyond just providing good housing is a powerful motivator, at our core, we are about building a better world, one neighborhood at a time, That’s a start and cause for optimism and celebration in a tense time.
In increasing numbers, people seek this, because of that, it has economic and quality of life value.