RE: Cohousing and "career-dislocated isolation"
From: Jennifer S. Stevens (
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 11:07:47 -0500

On Mon, 5 Apr 1999, Rob Sandelin wrote:

> This certainly seems to be true from my experience. There is lots of
> potential for available support, seemlessly integrated into your
> neighborhood relationships. However, the private home ownership model
> inherient in cohousing, which is so attractive to the middle class, creates
> large debt financial obligations so that cohousers spend most their waking
> hours away from the community in order to earn the money they need to pay
> for their  mortgages.

This is a very interesting point. I am currently in school (again) and my
husband is working at various contract things. Neither of us wants to work
full time for the next 20 years, especially if we choose to have children.
We have also never owned a home. We do have some savings, but would be
taking on a mortgage if we joined a cohousing community. We also consider
ourselves to be "downshifters," have gone through the steps of Your Money
or Your Life and are currently in a simplicity group (where we'll be
leading the co-housing discussion next week :)

Both simplicity and co-housing strongly appeal to me, but they do
conflict. On one hand, I hate the idea of being shackled to a mortgage. 
On the other hand, I still very much
would love to be part of a co-housing community. 

> This of course is not true everywhere,(there are a few projects that have
> created low income, low mortgage situations) but the average cohousing
> mortgage is not any cheaper than most other local forms of home ownership.
> Last time I did a calc on cohousing resales in the NW,(which was more than a
> year ago) the average unit price was $155,000.  With 10% down this equals a
> monthly mortage/tax/insurance debt of about $1300 a month at current
> interest rates.

It is possible to pay off a mortgage early (a little bit at first can go a
long way in the end), but that can be difficult. $1300 is also more than
twice the rent I pay for a one bedroom apartment (that has been quite
adequate for our current needs); it would still be twice what an Austin
two bedroom runs for. And then there are also monthly community fees. I"m
actually rather disheartened to hear that the average cost is so
high..although I take it that good news is that there is a resale market
out there...

> So in that regard, when you compare cohousing to other, non-bank financed
> communities, you find cohousing has much higher living costs with less
> member time availability. When I have visited and informally interviewed
> cohousers one common thread is that there are more things to do than people
> to do them, even in communities with 40-50 adults. This time limitation
> reality check often induces cohousing residents to hire other people to do
> things which they don't have the time to do themselves, such as clean the
> common building, or put in the landscaping.
> So cohousing has become the "monied class" of the communities movement, and
> that engenders some interesting commentary from the rest of the communities
> movement who live much more cheaply and simply. This class distinction is
> very evident from my experiences, since I bridge both worlds, and it's
> unfortunate to say the least.

I've heard of some Danish communities that were partly or wholly renter.
But that sounds pretty complicated to set up... I am curious about what
some of these "non monied" communities might be (do you mean folks who
share houses together?) Given my above-expressed doubts about the high
cost of co-housing, I'd be interested in seeing what else is out there...

jen stevens

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