Re: Affordability -- House and lot costs
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 94 10:36 CDT
At Sharingwood we called 6 local Realtors  in the area and asked about 
building lot prices.  The criteria we were looking for was 1/3 to 1/2 
acre building lots in our area which had utilities available.  The 
price ranged from $55 -$90,000.  We are selling our building lots, 
which include a huge greenbelt, a commonhouse, all the amenities of the 
community, plus all utilities to the lot for $35,000.  In our situation 
of dealing with raw land, we are 37% below the current market rate.

According to the real estate section of the Seattle Times the average 
home sale price in our area is $190,000.  The last 2 houses which were 
built at Sharingwood cost just under $150,000.   Now, it those houses 
had been in a typically development, they would have probably sold for 
20% profit which would have edged them up closer to the average home 
sale price.

So by removing the original sale profit of 20% our houses are cheaper.  
The first time.  The only house we have ever had for sale sold at about 
a 20% profit by the owner, not the builder and sold for, you guessed 
it, 190,000.

I had a discussion once with a Danish neighbor who knew of cohousing 
just down the road from where she grew up.  Her take on Danish 
Cohousing as a cultural thing was that Cohousing was viewed as middle 
and upper class living.  The people who lived in cohousing were 
managers and professional types. Her view was that if you lived in 
Cohousing you must be doing pretty good financially and in her view 
there was a bit of status involved, almost snobbery.

This is only one perspective and I would like to hear more of people 
who have had contact with Danes about their observations and feelings 
about cohousing in cultural contexts.

It may very well be shaping up that Cohousing in America is a 
upper-middle class phenomena.  In the large (20 units or more) 
cohousing developments this certainly seems to be the class thus far.  
The average Cohousing unit price between Winslow, Sharingwood, Puget 
Ridge is over $150,000 and I have not seen a resale of a unit for under 
$120,000 from those groups.

To qualify for a mortgage of $150,000 you need an income of $50-60,000 
a year.  That is pretty upper middle class numbers.  Is this bad?  I 
used to think so, I don't anymore.  I have discovered that there is a 
whole world of housing cooperatives, communes, intentional communities 
which are accessible to community interested people with incomes of 
$10,000 or less a year.

So without sounding horribly rigid and elitist about it, maybe 
Cohousing is community training for the upper middle class.  Yuppies, 
Beamers, Dinks, Profs, suits, live in community in Cohousing, Slackers, 
baggers, serfs, lights, live in community in housing coops and 
communes. (I just know I gunna get flamed for this).

The difference I see between cohousers and other types of communities 
is that cohousers hire other people to do their building for them, 
other communities build it themselves.  And that is one of the keys to 
affordablity.  If labor is not a cost, then the price of a house goes 
way way down.  That is why Habitat for humanity can build a 2000 sq 
foot, three bedroom house for $50,000. (they did exactly that just down 
the road from me last year.)

So in the search for Affordability maybe cohousing is not the right 
place to be looking. It may be mutually exclusive to have a designed 
and  built out by professionals 30 unit development be affordable to 
less than middle class incomes.

Rob Sandelin

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