Re: Affordability/diversity/housing for the poor/rich, etc.
From: Paul Fenn (
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 2002 14:38:02 -0600 (MDT)

Thanks for your helpful suggestions, I have contacted the county redevelopment office and will follow up on it.

We are indeed a strange case because most of the "members" of our cohousing project are low income families.

We have a nonprofit corporation which is seeking someone to underwrite our loan application.

Because we are also on environmentally sensitive land our cohousing project has a second "intention" apart from housing the poor, which is ecological footprint reduction: to improve our trailer park with water collection systems (a seep runs through the land), blackwater system improvements (unincorporated and no sewer) and solar photovoltaic system installations.

There are foundations that help low income people find third party loan guarantors, but they all depend on some individual who supports the idea and will underwrite the non-profit's loan with their own money. That is what we really need to do this.


At 09:29 AM 6/30/2002 -0700, you wrote:
Thanks, Racheli, for your ideas on this subject, and any others that you
choose to write about. One does have to choose one's battles.

I want to emphasize that I am not necessarily taking to task those
communities that were not successful in getting low-income housing
incorporated into their community, though I think many could walk the walk
more, as much as they talk the talk. I was pointing out that the discussion
was turning into "we help the poor get into cohousing, why not the rich?"
when, in fact, we DON'T help the poor get into cohousing, making the whole
argument specious.

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, California
tamgoddess [at]
> From: jnpalme [at] (Racheli Gai)
> Reply-To: cohousing-l [at]
> Date: Sun, 30 Jun 2002 06:55:00 -0600
> To: cohousing-l [at]
> Subject: Re: [C-L]_Affordability/diversity/housing for the poor/rich, etc.
> Hi Liz,
> I've been thinking about the comments you made (quoted below):
>> I just want to point out that very few groups have actually got
>> affordable units for low and moderate income people. On the whole,
>> cohousing has sacrificed housing for the poor for speed of development.
>> There's no reason they shouldn't, if that goes along with their
>> priorities.
>> All this talk about everyone in cohousing bending over backwards to
>> develop low-income housing is a load of crap. Just because it has been
>> discussed, paid lip service to, and whined about, does not make it so.
> I can't speak to the situation in all communities, but in ours there was
> definitly a wish to make at least some of the units affordable. It seemed
> horribly hard to do, and I'd say that we only had a less than moderate
> level of success at best.
> We could have crowded more homes on our not-quite-5 acres-site, (we have
> 36 households and we could have had up to 64)...  but this would have
> compromised other goals (wanting to have some open space; a community
> garden; making consensus decisions with so many people, etc.) I'm sure we
> didn't do all that could be done, partly because we didn't have someone
> who was knowledgeable enough regarding how to go about  doing it.
> I think that usually what happens in a cohousing communities isn't simply
> what one wishes (even fervently) in the abstract, but what one (or  more)
> people take on in terms of doing the research; having or making the
> necessary contacts, and providing leadership to the group on  the given
> subject.  It's also the case that if one person is interested in more than
> a small number of things, some of them will fall by the wayside for lack
> of sufficient time...  In my case (as an example),  while I'm as
> interested in affordability as in environmental issues-
> (frankly, I think that if one looks at these issues in some depth, they
> are not all that separate)- I already came to cohousing with a fair amount
> of knowledge on environmental issues; had contacts; etc. which made it
> easy to plug in.  When it comes to the issue of creating an affordable
> housing, I have little knowledge (or capability) when it comes to most
> things financial.  I'd have supported strong leadership provided by
> someone else, but wasn't able to step into that role myself.
> This is connected to another issue - that of cohousing being being sold as
> "non-ideological".
> I suspect that virtually every group has people who are pretty
> comfortably ensconsed in the mainstream, and who get upset when it seems
> that someone might be agitating towards something outside of the
> mainstream, which is immediately tagged as "ideological". This is, of
> course, how mainstream America marginalizes people who work for anything
> other than a very cosmetic change.  Caring for poor people to the extent
> that one wishes to make structural changes (not just give some minor
> handout) is outside the mainstream ethos, therefore is seen as bringing
> ideology into the cohousing "non-ideological" discourse.  Same with many
> environmental issues, especially if something can't be justified on an
> economic basis, or on a direct-benefit-for-
> cohousing-people-basis [because justification on an economic basis or
> other direct benefit basis isn't seen as ideologically motivated]. eg:
> Not buying a certain play structure because it's toxic is "ok", if you
> can convince people that it's, indeed, toxic.  Advocating
> not buying a playstructure because it affects an indigenous population
> somewhere, or destroys old growth redwood is... RED! so to speak :)) This
> misconception is based on a lack of understanding (actually, a complete
> denial) that every position (on any subject) has ideological underpinning
> -  that agreeing to use old growth redwood is just as ideological as not
> agreeing  to use it, and so on.
> I've found that agitating for anything which is outside the perceived
> "safe zone" comes at a significant personal cost, which not everyone is
> ready to pay.  And those who do take on such projects/positions often get
> worn out as time goes by (that has definitly been the case with me).
> R.
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> jnpalme [at] (Racheli Gai)
> -----------------------------------------------------------
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