The Opportunity

Karen and Gail are currently seeking to sell the property at 311 9th Ave SE Olympia, WA to a Housing Cooperative. It’s an opportunity to engage with sustainable community development, to care for a beautiful historic home. They estimate that the total monthly cost for co-owners will be about $650 per month, not including utilities. It takes a special person to buy into such a vision and live with its unfolding development. But for the right people, it will be perfect. People who love to share what they know and learn from others will be most drawn to this situation. These are some of the qualities that have been identified that would suggest a good fit:

Ideal candidates

  • $10,000 downpayment for home ownership

  • Comfortable using respectful communication skills

  • Practiced in the art of separating compost, garbage and recycling

  • Conscientious about water and energy use

  • Supportive of a scent-free environment

  • Willing to minimize personal impact in the Common Areas

  • Inclined to putter in yard/garden

  • Preferring a quiet environment

  • Enjoying sharing meals occasionally


  • 4 bedroom/3 bathroom Craftsman style home built in 1908

  • Finished basement with full kitchen and washer/drier

  • Detached studio apartment (320 sq. ft.)

  • Central Location

  • Established landscape and fruit trees

  • Sauna

  • Central Heating and Air filtration

  • Common Spaces: Living, Dining, Library, Kitchen

  • Art Studio with ceramics kiln and wheel

  • Covered Cob Oven with Covered Outdoor Kitchen

  • Fully equipped Kitchen + party supplies for large gatherings

Current Residents

Karen Nelson, who bought the house in 1988. Gail O'Sullivan, long-time resident and Karen's sidekick. Arlene Olsen, Karen's buddy through their Piano Group, who serves as staff for Max and Theo. A couple named Bree and Jacob joined us in October 2019 with a great background in cooperative living, Permaculture and Non-violent Communication. Ashley McBee since spring 2020 is helping to navigate these changing times for all. Karen and Gail will NOT be part of the Cooperative and it is uncertain whether the current house mates will pursue this option.

Cooperative Housing

The house will be divided into 5 equal shares. Through the bylaws of the Fertile Ground Housing Cooperative, co-owners will know exactly how the organization functions. All the particulars of expectations and benefits will be transparent from the beginning in order to assure the best possible fit for the co-owners, the cooperative and the mission. These details are in our Draft Bylaws which are not ready to be shared yet. Gratitude to the Northwest Cooperative Development Center for their steadfast coaching and facilitation.

The Mission

Fertile Ground’s mission has always been “demonstrating urban sustainability on a neighborhood scale” and in a less official way: "to be the change you want to see in the world." (Gandhi) So, the creation of this Housing Cooperative fits inside our larger mission.

The Timeline

Since 2019, potential members of the Cooperative have begun to design their new home. We used a very helpful resource called Questionnaire for Co-owners of a Home and we looked at many by-laws from other Housing Coops and met with a Housing Coop member from the local Hillview Coop.

We have created Draft Bylaws and Draft Articles of Incorporarion but these are just a starting point. It would be up to the group to develop it as it fits their needs.

Karen and Gail would like to sell the house during summer 2022 and so the need to begin working together is somewhat urgent. Once the agreements are in place, the group needs to form a Cooperative with the Secretary of State (not that hard) and then get a loan from a bank to cover the mortgage. The difficulty of this step depends mostly on the financial solvency of the members of the group. Everyone should have at least $10,000 to bring to the table for a down payment. Your monthly mortgage payment will be highly impacted by the amount of down payment you can provide. It's a common practice for Cooperatives to refinance their home at intervals in order to continue to improve their affordability. We have assistance from the NW Cooperative Development Center when the time comes to get needed consultation.

If you've read this far, you must certainly be interested. We have an Application Form for potential co-owners to fill out. You're welcome to do so even though we don't have any openings right now. Eventually we will be asking candidates to disclose personal financial information to make sure we're all qualified for getting a bank loan. Please feel free to make contact through email and we'll set up a time to meet you in person.