Affordability -- a new leaf
From: mtracy (
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 94 20:56 CDT
Thanks to all for your interest!

Bob Morrison writes:
>Here in Greater Boston, there is a huge number of potential cohousers who 
>are not poor enough on paper to qualify for any form of government
>subsidy for housing, but not prosperous enough to afford the price range 
>that is proposed for most local cohousing.  I include in this group 
>people who are qualified for a mortgage but feel they would be 
>overextending themselves by going through with it.

Stephanie Fassnacht writes:
>Most of our current members can afford something in and around $100,000,
>give or take $20,000.  Most of what we've looked at so far has had a
>projected cost in the range of $150,000 - $225,000.

Nancy Wight writes:
>You must have read the book "Your Money or Your Life" ;-)

Bingo!  <Your Money or Your Life> by Dominguez and Robin, Penguin Books, 
1992.  (Not to be confused with a current book by the same title about health 
care.)  The authors have very nice things to say about cohousing.

Ok, let's compare our current housing costs to the option of living in 
cohousing.  We live an a fairly ordinary street, with neighbors about ten 
feet away on either side, about 6 houses per acre.  Our housing density is 
comparable to cohousing density.  We have roughly the same cost of land and 
construction.  If we were living in cohousing, these houses would be 
clustered in about one quarter of our property.  About one quarter would go 
to parking lot and roads, one quarter to common house and grounds, and one 
quarter to woods, orchards, playing field.  In short, we would be buying into 
<three> or <four> times as much land as we live on now.  In addition, we  
would be paying our share of construction of the common facilities.

On the other hand, buying and subdividing land can greatly reduce its price. 
In Claremont, we are looking at several large sites which, subdivided, 
would cost about $30,000 per household.  One of them could be had as low as 
$10,000.  The going price per individual lot in that neighborhood is about 
$100,000.  Also, constructing several identical units at the same time can 
result in about 10% savings (maximum).

So is it cheaper or more expensive to buy into cohousing?  From <Places Rated 
Almanac: 1993>

Boulder, Colorado: average housing cost: $122,900.
Denver, Colorado: average housing cost: $101,400.
Nyland cohousing unit for sale in nearby LaFayette: $200,000 approx.

Whoa!  You might say that cohousing is nicer to live in than conventional 
housing, and that the units are <newer>, and I would agree with you on both 
counts. But we are only talking about cost, at the moment.  (Just try and 
find a forty-year old cohousing unit.)

To quote the almanac, "Step through the front door of the typical home, and 
you'll find yourself in a detached structure that was built after 1970 and 
has a single-level, 1,600 square-foot floor plan enclosing five rooms (three 
bedrooms, one bath, a complete kitchen), no basement, and an insulated 
attic."  The price for this typical home is about $80,000.  Based on a 
15-year, 8-percent loan, 20 percent down payment, that's about $600/month.  
So Stephanie Fassnacht's wish to find something for $100,000 is entirely 
reasonable (but extremely difficult).

<This message is getting long.  I'll break it into small pieces so 
those of you with nifty mail programs and no interest can skip right over 
them. ;-)

Martin Tracy          mtracy [at]          Los Angeles, CA

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