We are a development cooperative seeking to help people and communities plant roots. With the Center for Real Estate at MIT, we created a community-driven homeownership model that allows more people to access the comfort of housing security and the ability to age in place.
The Frolic model allows property owners, neighbors, and future residents to pool their equity and capital to bring projects to life. This is done through a community investment fund, which helps develop each project.
Frolic projects are typically 6-10 units, with a mix of studio, two bedroom, and three-bedroom units. Additionally, all projects have a flexible common space with an open floor plan and a kitchen. This space is a common livingroom and can be used by residents for events, shared meals, celebrations, and as workspace. Alongside this space is a guest suite usable by all residents as extra space for visitors.
The cooperative ownership model we use is inspired by the Danish Andelsbolig model. The model allows you to buy your home without a large downpayment. It also allows future residents to do the same, keeping the community affordable over time.
Many cities in the U.S. face two common challenges:
As housing prices grow, it is becoming increasingly challenging for people to access housing security and the safety of being able to plant roots in the place that you live and in your community.
As development pressure increases, many communities are being torn apart. Much of urban America is single family. To accomodate growing populations many cities are changing the zoning of single family neighborhoods to allow for greater density. Conventional developers (using conventional capital) build luxury housing on single family lots, unaffordable to the people who have lived in these neighborhoods for generations. Facing increasing property taxes and pressure to sell, many residents in these communities are pushed out of their homes and communities. Development is happening to these communities, not with them.
THE FROLIC STORY
Frolic is originally an Amish term describing massive festivals where over a hundred families would gather to raise a barn together. They were joyous gatherings combining hard work with celebration, eating together, and building with community. This is in the inspiration for the Frolic Model.
The Frolic Model is something that we developed over the last three years while doing research at the Center for Real Estate at MIT. The model has emerged through the work of over 150 visionary city staff, developers, community organizers, lawyers, and finance experts, each helping craft elements of this model with us through support from DesignX, Sandbox, and the PKG Center for Public Service at MIT. We have now taken it upon ourselves to build demonstration projects using this model, and assist others in doing the same. In 2019 we launched in Seattle, and are working with two very inspiring communities to build projects in their neighborhoods, fight displacement, and create new pathways to homeownership for those facing housing insecurity. We hope to work with you and your community one day as well.
HOW IT WORKS
Frolic projects start by forming a partnership with a property owner looking to stay in their neighborhood and redevelop their lot.
Frolic then establishes an LLC with this property owner which will eventually become the cooperative (coop) that all residents in the future project own.
Working with the original property owner and future residents (including any friends they would like to bring to the project), we create a schematic design for the community. This is done through a series of pot lucks where residents discuss specifications for their units and what they would like to see in the common space. Frolic projects are typically 6-10 units with a flexible common space.
Our Community Investment Fund allows the property owner, future residents, neighbors, and the larger community to invest in the project. This fund also allows the original property owner and other residents or friends to contribute any equity they have in their current home into the project to assist the coop in securing a construction loan from a bank.
Once a construction loan is secured and all equity raised, the project gets built. The LLC that we originally created with the property owner now owns the project.
Residents buy their units in the project by buying a share of the LLC, similarly to conventional housing coops. However, rather than shares costing the full value of the unit, they only cost 20%. For the project shown, resident shares on average cost $50,000. A resident can purchase this share by buying it outright, or taking a personal mini-mortgage for their share, with a $5,000 down payment. In addition to purchasing their share, a resident also pays a monthly coop fee. This fee helps pay off the blanket mortgage, the community investors (who receive an annual 5% dividend), a reserve for maintenance, utilities and property taxes. The coop fee is a set fee, and does not change over time except for adjustments to the cost of property taxes, electricity, water, and heating.
20% of the project cost is supported from selling resident shares. The other 80% is covered by what is called a blanket mortgage (essentially a shared mortgage for the overall coop) and a loan given by the Community Investment Fund.
Over time, the value of resident shares grow with the overall market. This means if a resident buys their share for $50,000, and overall the property value rises by 10%, their share is then worth $55,000.
The other 80% of the project is owned collectively by all the residents through the coop. The coop grows $320,000 in equity through it’s share of overall project value growth and the bank principal that has been paid off.
At certain intervals, the coop can then take a new bank loan for this increased amount (called refinancing) or take a line of credit on this new value. When this happens, the coop suddenly receives $320,000 in cash. Half of this amount is placed into a reserve fund for building improvements and a buffer, while the other half is used to “buy out” community investors from the Community Investment Fund, and transfer ownership of their shares proportionally to residents. Under this example, residents will then each receive $20,000 worth of shares, and begin receiving a dividend of $1,000 / year. The longer they live in the project, the more shares they will accrue and the more dividends they will receive.
When residents move from the project, they sell their resident share but retain ownership of their CIF shares. In this way, they then become an outside community investor in the project, and continue receiving their dividend. Over time, the new residents will buy out their shares.
When community investors are bought out, we give them the option of cashing out their share value or transferring their share to a new project. This allows each frolic project to help support the next.
This is Frolic’s first project, located in Central District, Seattle and designed by Hybrid Architecture. Frolic 1 will have 8 units, a street-facing common house, outdoor eating area, guest suite, bicycle parking, and back garden.
The project is currently in pre-development and we have had our first design workshop with potential residents. We expect to apply for permitting in April, 2020 and begin construction the following year.
Two 3 bedroom units
Four 2 bedroom units
Two 1.5 bedroom units
1 Guest suite with bathroom
1 Common room with kitchen and open floorplan.
Estimated Share Price: $50,000 - 80,000 depending on unit size. With share loan, you would be expected to put $5-8,000 down.
Estimated Coop Fee: $1,600 - 2,800 depending on unit size and final project specifications.
The project is designed by Hybrid, a Seattle-based design-build-develop firm with a strong reputation in the region for their design excellence. They are known for creating homes with quality materials, character, strong environmental performance, and flexible wall-systems allowing for easy addition and removal of rooms over time. Hybrid received the 2019 AIA Award of Honor of their work in urban infill multi-family design, build, and development.
This is Frolic’s second project, located in Columbia City, Seattle, and designed by Allied8 Architects. Frolic 2 will have 12 units with a shared courtyard and common house. The property abuts a greenbelt and has immediate access to walking trails.
The project is currently in pre-development and we have had two workshops with potential residents. We expect to apply for permitting in April, 2020 and begin construction the following year.
Two 3 bedroom units
Two 2 bedroom units
Six studio apartments
1 Common room with kitchen and open floorplan.
The project is designed by Allied8, a Seattle-based architecture firm known for their sensitivity to materials and interior spaces. See more of their projects at Allied8.com.