Re: more questions about affordable cohousing
From: Kay Argyle (kay.argyleutah.edu)
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2007 18:35:00 -0700 (PDT)
Since nobody else has responded to this.... 

Wasatch Commons in Salt Lake City has five income-qualified rent-to-own
units. 

Having income disparity in a community complicates things.  Having renters
complicates things. The affordable units combine both sets of complications.

The Crown units represent an official commitment to income diversity, which
encourages us to deal with issues around it with sensitivity and grace (I
won't claim we always succeed!), from which the renters in privately owned
units and the owners on shoestring budgets also benefit.

Rent for the Crown units (the acronym of the state program under which they
were built) pays for the mortgage, the monthly condo assessment, a
maintenance reserve, and a management fee (there is a horrific annual report
to file, inspections by the housing agency, etc.).  The maintenance reserve
functions as an enforced savings plan - anything left over goes towards the
down payments.  The condo association has allowed the tenants themselves to
decide on rent increases (given that any money above expenses eventually
goes back to them anyway).

Per the bylaws, renters can't vote for or serve on the management committee.
Therefore, there are the five official members, voted on by owners, and two
"representatives" selected by the Crown and other renters. 

Renters are (apparently) not permitted to block consensus on financial
matters.  At least a couple of renters (not just Crown) have expressed a
feeling of constraint during discussions.

Some owners and other renters get just as stressed at any prospect of
monthly assessments going up as do the "official" low-income residents.

Participation doesn't correlate with renter/owner status.  A higher
percentage of owners has turned over than of Crown renters. 

The differences in square footage, construction, and fittings put the Crown
units on a continuum, not on the other side of a gulf.  They were built with
the lower-cost options, such as porcelain kitchen sinks and white laminate
cabinets - as were some privately owned (p-o) units.  On the other hand,
they have nicer flooring than many of the p-o units, because a couple of
years ago the maintenance reserve ponied up for tile, carpet, and wood
laminate - whereas about half of owners still have bare (sealed) concrete.

The townhouse 2-bms, all p-o, average two occupants.  The Crown 2-bms each
have a single inhabitant - a slightly smaller space, but all to themselves.
Among p-o, the number of bedrooms follows income more than it does household
size - five people in a 3-bm, a single in a 4-bm.  

The question of inequality has arisen over the ability of some members to
get an amenity they want for the community by paying for it themselves.
Here again, the ruffled feathers sometimes belong to an owner. It strikes me
as a particularly silly, selective form of jealousy.  I'd like to be able to
be as generous as some residents - I'd also like to jet off to Europe like
some residents.  I get to share the treadmill, or orchard trees, or
whatever; I don't get to share the trip to Milan.  Why object to one and not
the other?

Kay

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