Subsidized Housing and Compatibility
From: John Major (
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996 15:41:01 -0600
Hello, folks -

I have another interesting question for you all. One of our options at Wasatch
CoHousing is to accept federal money to build a number of units to provide
low-rent housing, a very pressing need in Salt Lake's exploding real estate
market - of course, housing costs increase faster than wages! The scary part
about this is that, after accepting federal dollars, we would have to accept
tenants on a first-come, first-serve basis, with the only qualification being
a low-enough income. Our group is a little concerned that, with a strong
incentive like good housing at low cost, people that have no interest in (or
even hostility to..) community will join us and stay put, causing conflict. We
are looking into writing participation and/or work requirements into our
homeowner's rules, and checking to see if that would be a valid and legal
restriction on tenants, but we really don't like the sound of that.

I should point out that we are a fairly low-income group ourselves (no, ahem,
Armani suits    ;-)     ), and like the idea of rental units - two folks are
planning on building them already, and the Danish experience seems to indicate
that renters generally equal the committment to the community of owners. Has
that been your experience?

Up until this point, folks have been self-selecting - people that didn't
appreciate the consensus process and the "meetings lifestyle", or just plain
didn't get along, left - the difficult road ahead was enough disincentive,
certainly! Others had to leave because it was clear they could not consider
purchasing housing right now - that's the income-discrimination inherent in US
CoHousing that we've talked about. We'd go and get those folks back if we had
rental units, to be sure... Certainly, low-rent cohousing is better than
low-rent tract homes for the world at large, but some of us are worried about
the risk to our budding community.

Finally, there is a philosophical point - is the "redemptive" quality of
community strong enough that regardless of people's attitudes when they join
us, they will come around and see that the benefits far outweigh the
disadvantages? Does the "most expensive personal growth plan" also work its
magic on renters?

Thanks for listening -

John Major
jmajor [at]
Wasatch CoHousing

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