RE: low income housing
From: Buzz Burrell (
Date: Fri, 12 May 95 08:57 CDT
I think Joani's concern that low income people will not feel comfortable in your
typical cohousing situation is not true - her insights are very good, and quite
valid, but they apply to cultural DIVERSITY and not INCOME.  

In other words, there is no way in the world a poor hispanic family would feel
at home in any of the coho places I've seen.  But neither would a middle income
hispanic family.  Coho as it has been practiced is mostly a "peer group"
function.  This is not a critisism at all;  it's a natural quality of creating
community.  At the national conference, people came from all over the country,
and I noticed everyone there sort of looked familiar!  I personally would like
to see us move away from that, and there are elements that are entrenched in the
movement that contribute to this lack of diversity, but it is to be expected;
we would have to consciously work to alter it.

I X-C ski race in the winter, and there is zilch diversity, as you can imagine!
However, there is the full range of income levels, from must-hitchike-to-race,
to private helicopters.  Everybody gets along great.

There is a whole new catagory in the population to explain why this is.  Lynne
Farnum starts to get to the heart of it when she says:
<<The terms "low-income" and "affordable" are subject to a wide variety of
interpretations.  Low-income may include the working poor, who have steady work
but are barely scraping by in terms of meeting their family's basic needs; or it
may be taken to mean only the desperately poor, unemployed or welfare dependent,
living in substandard housing in scary neighborhoods.>>

OR, it may mean the artists, athletes, living lightly people, meditators, early
retirees, world travellers, etc, etc, who constitute the new catagory of
"semi-voluntary poor".  These are great people to have in a community, because
they are interesting, have time, experience, and usually have something to
contribute ... but not money.  A career is secondary to other activities.
People like this fit right in.  (I'm describing myself in case you haven't
already guessed). 

OR/AND, as Lynne also described so well, your development is in one of the many
areas of the country where the term "working poor" applies to professional two
income families both with Masters Degrees!  Like here.  The median house costs
$224,000.  The median income for a single person is $28,400.  Using standard FHA
loan guidlines - oops, the American Dream simply does not work!  You can push
all the right buttons, but unlike the mouse in the laboratory maze, you still
won't get the food pellet.  

In conclusion, income is no barrier to fitting in, but culture is.  And most
coho developments have not provided for the lower income people, which in many
areas, constitutes an astonishing 65% or more of the population (as defined by
if they can qualify for a loan, based on their income).

(Comment on the side):
I think we'de better address the affordability issue with more determination and
creativity;  it's pivotal, not just for coho, but for the country as a whole.
Coho should be taking the lead and modeling ways that people can again afford to
own their own place. 

Buzz Burrell

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