Re: Urban Affordable Cooperative Cohousing Communities.
From: Flowers (
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2009 19:46:34 -0800 (PST)
Here is an article from the New York Times, written in 2006, at the top of the "bubble." It shows how emotional the subject of affordability vs. investment can be:

Ed Flowers
Yulupa Cohousing
Santa Rosa, CA
----- Original Message ----- From: "John Faust" <wjfaust [at]>
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2009 6:29 PM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Urban Affordable Cooperative Cohousing Communities.

Actually, the question of whether housing should be regarded as an
investment or as a shelter with enduring community commitment appeared on
this list more than a year ago. It was before the housing bubble was visibly
collapsing. That discussion didn't gain much traction since most made the
assumption that houses that didn't appreciate substantially were somehow
defective. That made it somewhat of a moot point. The question, however,
wasn't whether houses should appreciate but rather how they should be
regarded -- as investments or as enduring commitments. Maybe now, that
question takes on new meaning.

The house-as-investment view seems at odds with an underlying motivation for cohousing: the restoration of community in our lives. I guess if one bought
into a community with the idea of recovering that investment through a
reverse mortgage, then both commitment and investment are aligned. But is it likely that someone viewing it as an investment would not upgrade to an even
more productive investment if the opportunity presented itself?

I don't think the question is an academic one. It probably has an impact on
what you build and how you build it. I don't think building for investment
or marketability -- a key for developer-financed projects -- would produce
the same physical structures as a community-financed project. A developer
will have to build for a reasonably large segment of the market and that is understandable. She can't go broke satisfying some client group's dreams. On
the other hand, in community-financed projects, the community might take
more risks in the use of alternative solutions that haven't been viewed as
mainstream (e.g., local energy production, water conservation, native
landscaping, small environmental footprint or affordability).

So if you build for investment, you will more than likely steer closer to
conventional solutions. After all, the performance of that investment will
depend on how large that market is when you are ready to recover your gains. If you build for an enduring commitment, you might get a better fit for the
members of the community.

Another consideration might be participation in the community governance and
maintenance. Investors are likely to view that as an additional tax on the
investment and opt out. It would be interesting to look at how some of these
aspects of cohousing vary (if at all) between developer-financed and
community-financed communities. Is turnover in developer-financed projects
higher? Is participation in community-financed projects higher? These are
just guesses and the answers might surprise me.

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