Re: What is co-housing really?
From: Kristen Simmons (
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2008 07:41:31 -0700 (PDT)
What is cohousing really? That depends... ;-)

Communities that describe themselves as cohousing usually share the
six characteristics at this link: . The biggest requirement
is to know and work with ones neighbors.

Beyond that, each community is unique. Most communities have a vision
and/or mission statement, which might be something to examine if you
are looking for a specific type of community. It would be possible to
have a really narrowly defined cohousing community. For example, there
could a cohousing community for women who voted for Bush and are less
than 5' tall. But, it's doubtful that a bank would finance that
project or that most folks could get a mortgage. The Fair Housing Act
might have something to say about resales, as well. But it could still
be cohousing!

I am a part of a group that is now forming in Boston. We are actively seeking to be diverse in
terms of income, race, age, sexual identity. We are putting time and
money into making that a reality. But it's tricky.

For example, regarding income diversity, we would like to have
households that are below 80% of the area median income. Those
households must be able to rent. We would like to have households at
30% of the area median income. Those households need to rent and also
need subsidies for any housing. To be truly diverse, we need to have
some rental housing, which someone or something will have to own.
(Reminder, we are developing in a dense, urban area. Tents, trailers,
build-it-yourself won't work here. The income levels are based on lots
of research, that I am more than happy to share.)

Who will own these rental units? Our current membership is not
wealthy. Most of us can barely afford our own units. Professionally,
we work with the elderly and the mentally ill in the non-profit
sector; we research; we preach. We do not make a lot of money, but we
are focused on our community and beyond!  We are working very hard to
make income diversity a reality. But what if we can't make it happen?
What if we can't get the financing for rental units as well as
financing for our own residences? What if we can't find a non-profit
to own a unit or two for rental? Will that mean that we are income
exclusive? (I'll admit that I am a bit sensitive about this. It's hard
to have a vision that may not happen, in part because we live in a
capitalist economy.)

I suspect that most forming groups really struggle with these issues.
It isn't easy. I would love to learn how other groups have made
diversity, especially in income and race, a reality while forming.
Donations for a couple deeply affordable units are also welcome!


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