Cohousing within reach of "middle-middle class"?
From: Bob M . LKG1-3/A11 226-7570 (morrisontook.enet.dec.com)
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 94 17:31 CDT
Rob Sandelin writes:
 
> 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...

> 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 find the idea that cohousing is mainly an upper-middle-class phenomenon
disturbing. Consider a family that has an income of $40,000, does not own
a house, and wants to live in cohousing. Is this doable? One option is to 
somehow raise $50,000 or so, make a much larger than usual down payment,
and thereby bring the mortgage amount down to a level they can qualify for. 
But few people can raise this kind of money for a down payment, unless they
are selling a house.

>  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.

  I will speak for myself here. I know of very few such arrangements here in
central New England. The ones I have heard of don't appeal to me. Having
private living space is important to me, and I have never heard of an in-
tentional community other than cohousing that offers private space. If it
weren't for the privacy issue, I would have moved into shared housing long
ago.
  I currently live in a rental condo that physically is ideal for me: the
right amount of space, the right price, and only 7 miles from work. If I
had to move out for some reason, I could easily find another place that was
just as good. There are limits to what I'm willing to give up to achieve a
sense of community. I mentioned a month ago that I'm not willing to commute
more than 20 miles. I hate long commuting both as a matter of principle
(bad for the environment, and my workplace is not reachable by public trans-
port) and because of the time and stress involved. I also dislike living in
big cities.
  I have never owned a house. One reason why is that I didn't want to be tied
down to one place. In retrospect, it's a good thing I didn't buy a home 5 or
10 years ago, when some people were trying to talk me into it, because I have
had to move four times in the last 15 years to accommodate job changes, and
selling/buying a home each time would have been a major hassle. Cohousing is
IMHO a sufficient reason to take on the hassle of buying and owning a home.
But the idea of extending myself to the max financially to live in cohousing
scares me, and that's probably what it would mean, unless I get very lucky.
  There is something that has only been peripherally mentioned here in the
time (one month) that I have been in this newsgroup, and that is that one
reason why cohousing is expensive is that most people try to locate their
communities within commuting distance of large metropolises. The attempt to
find a "rural" site within commuting distance puts major constraints on the
site. Here in Greater Boston, there are probably only 50 or so sites in the
entire metropolitan area that meet these criteria at any price, and not more
than 20 that are financially doable. In a few years there will probably be
enough cohousing units available within 30 miles of Boston to accommodate
everyone who works in Boston (which in this context includes on and inside of
route 128) and wants to live in cohousing. My proposal is to give up trying
to be within commuting distance of Boston and build a community 40-50 miles
from the city. This would greatly increase the number of available sites and,
as a result, hold down the cost of a site and help bring the price of units
with reach of the "middle middle class". Such a community would still be
within reach of workplaces in some of Boston's exurbs. The remainder of the 
households could be drawn from retirees, telecommuters, and others who are not 
tied to a workplace. 
  That reminds me: there has not been a lot of discussion here about setting
up a "telecommuting center" in cohousing. There was a brief discussion a few
weeks ago about wiring the units and common house for data communications.
My idea goes a little further: to install equipment and wiring and set up
space for the specific purpose of telecommuting. There are several places
(not cohousing) where this has been done, and it seems like cohousing would
be ideal for this, especially if a rural site is chosen (see above).
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