Re: Foundation/Agency Funding
From: MASwain (
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 1996 20:48:38 -0600
Hi Y'all,

I'm primarily a lurker on this list but I thought I'd pass on what I know
about the availability of government funds for affordable housing.
Government funds are available for affordable housing and as far as I know
there's no reason why they couldn't be used for cohousing.  The groups I know
of that have used these types of funds for cohousing or coho type
homeownership projects are Southside Cohousing in Sacremento, groups in
Bolder Colorado and Amherst, Mass (see Cohousing Magazine articles) and the
following Washington State groups: Vashon Cohousing, OPAL Community Land
Trust and Lopez Community Land Trust.  (This list is from memory, sorry for
any errors).  

Depending on the funding source and nature of the group applying, funds are
available for technical assistance, predevelopment work, land acquisition,
renovation and new construction.  It's my opinion, although I don't know for
sure, that it would be difficult or impossible to get affordable housing
funds for the construction of a common house.  Funds can only be spent on
units that will be set aside for low income households.  It is probably
necessary that you be a nonprofit or work with a nonprofit in order to be
eligible for most funds.  Also, there are reporting requirements and
requirements that the units assisted remain affordable for an extended period
of time.

The Federal funding sources that I know of for affordable housing include
HOME and Community Development Block Grant funds through the Dept of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD), Federal Homes Loan Bank "Affordable Housing
Program" funds and the old Farmers Home Administration, now called Rural
Economic and Community Services (or something like that).  There are also low
income housing tax credits available but their process and requirements tend
to be quite commplicated.  Anyone interested in pursuing that avenue could
contact two national groups that broker these deals: LISC (the Low Income
Support Corporation) and ESIC which is a subsidiary of the Enterprise
Foundation).  Many parts of the country also have city, county and/or state
funds available.  In many states, HUD funds are distributed through a state
agency (for example HUD funds in Washington State are distributed by the
Housing Division of the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and
Economic Development).

Groups that would like to incorporate affordable housing into their cohousing
development (and I think this is a WONDERFUL idea) can contact these agencies
directly and ask for program guidelines and application forms.  Many have
local or regional offices.

I would also highly recommend that groups connect up with their local
affordable housing nonprofit organization(s) (if there is one in your area)
because these groups know the ins and outs of the process of successfully
getting funds, as well as the drawbacks or strings attached that apply to
each funding source.  Sometimes a local nonprofit may agree to in effect
"purchase" a block of units within the development prior to construction by
writing the grants to secure the funds for their land acquisition and
construction.  The nonprofit would also then facilitate their sale to
qualifying low income families, saving the cohousing group a lot of work,
providing economic diversity, and ensuring financing for a portion of the
units.  The details would need to be all CLEARLY worked out in writing in
advance of any partnership.
It is not uncommon for it to take one to two years between when an affordable
housing nonprofit first envisions a new project and when the funds are in
place and the work can begin.  So if you're thinking of incorporating
affordable housing into your cohousing community, its best to start working
on that aspect fairly early on.

Hope this is helpful.  I work for a small nonprofit affordable housing
organization in Washington State.  My nonprofit hasn't done a Cohousing
project yet, but we may soon.  The above information is acurate to the best
of my knowledge but you should verify the details for yourself, I could be
wrong.  In addition I am speaking in broad generalizations which are by
necessity innacurate.  Each funding source has its own requirements.

In community,

Mary Ann

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