CoHousing for currently homeless households
From: Joani Blank (
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 02:10:56 -0500
Some odd thoughts on this subject:

Problem: It can be very difficult to involve future residents in the
planning, particularly if there is a long time gap between the start and
the projected finish date. And participatory design is a very important
component in cohousing. 

One potential solution: Make participation in some of the late stage
planning a requirement for future occupancy. If you want earlier
involvement, ask currently homeless or recently homeless people from the
area where you are working/building to advise you. 

Problem: A lot of financing for affordable housing requires that a
non-profit developer build the housing first and only then make it
available on a first-come, first serve basis to households within fairly
inflexible parameters of eligibility. 

One potential solution: Find a non-profit private developer with lots of
financial resources of its own so that it can pick and choose who will live
there based on the desire of those households to truly participate in the
self-management of the community. 

Problem: No serious money available for major retrofitting or new

One possible solution Buy an existing small apartment building (perhaps 8
to12 units) and convert one preferably ground floor unit into a common
house. Rip out all the walls (except the bathroom)  perhaps using sweat
equity or enlisting the help of  Habitat or a volunteer group, to make one
multipurpose room with kitchen. (if the place is big enough, keep a
separate area for young kids.) Give residents enough money to modestly
furnish the space, but require that they make the decisions about how to go
about doing that with the resources they have. Guide them in programming
the space and also have them plan and manage paying for common utilities
and for  common kitchen expenses. Even if the agency actually has to fund
this, the decisions about managing the physical space and the expenditure
of money can be left in the hands of the residents. 

Joani Blank
Doyle Street and Old Oakland CoHousing (Bay Area, CA)


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