Truly affordable cohousing
From: Marganne (
Date: Fri, 9 May 2008 16:32:48 -0700 (PDT)
Note: I apologize in advance if some of my post offends anyone. I feel strongly about this subject and often go overboard when discussing it.
I've been away from the list for a while (stopped keeping up with reading). Over the years I've subscribed to this list, I've become disillusioned many times about accessibility to cohousing both physically and fiscally (couldn't pass that one up).

People continue to think a $250,000 home (plus your share of the common house and membership) is affordable. Having been able bodied for most of my life, I am very sensitive to the subtly of eliminating possibilities for those of us with physical and/or mental disabilities living on fixed incomes.

You are not uncaring people! There is much more expression of care for other people and the environment here than in many other groups. I suspect it's lack of direct experience. Prior to my illness, I was empathetic about affordable housing. My perspective changed when I had to stop working in my mid-40s.

There are probably many, many more people like me who would like to live in a community environment of some sort, but lack the funds or capacity needed to get through the current admission gates of cohousing. Affordable cohousing could provide a way for people to pool their funds together with others to recreate homes they CAN afford (take my mortgage please!).

I'm looking for help from those of you who are very creative and can think outside the affordability box. The last time I raised this question, several people asked that the discussion remain on this list. In glancing over some of the posts made in the prior 6 months, I saw one or two posts about affordability, but very little discussions followed.

I have written to and called several cohousing projects in formation to get a feel for their affordability threshold. It's not an easy figure to find. A member of one of those projects asked me what I considered affordable. I said $150,000. He laughed and suggested I find a shipping crate to live in. (See links at end of this post.)

True affordability can be a hard sell to folks who can afford to live in current cohousing. Most folks never would consider living in a shipping crate or something similar (modular homes, yurts). Profitability for architects and developers also might be an issue. Or perhaps there are examples I've missed? Converted trailer parks? Manufactured housing?

Can some of you who are experienced in forming cohousing projects help here? Can cohousing be more accessible to 'the rest' of us? (Or maybe prove why it can't be done.)

If you'd like to learn more about the Small House Movement, check the links from my blog, Cohousing, Small House Movement. There are many more options than container housing.

Cohousing, Small House Movement

Shipping container living

Generally, architects offer container homes for anywhere from $125 to $150 per sq. ft. There are container home kits from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet. ... Adam Kalkin has sold a dozen of his ... Quik Houses, each based on five shipping containers. These are two-story, 2,000-square-foot homes with skylights and enormous glass windows, equipped with three bedrooms and two baths. The price, which ranges from $76,000 for the basic kit to $160,000 (with all the bells and whistles like a stainless-steel kitchen and mahogany doors), is under $100 per square foot, not including land or foundation. ... Used containers can be purchased for $1,500 to $2,500 ... a customized container with lighting, heating, insulation, and air conditioning, it could cost $7-13,000.

Larger complexes of many shipping container units address the difficulty in providing high-density prefab housing. Like Spacebox (which reader Rob Kelley pointed out would be greener if made with containers), they can operate on a system of plug-and-play pods, with utilities in a central core rather than the living units themselves.

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