Re: Urban Affordable Cooperative Cohousing Communities.
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 14 Feb 2009 14:28:01 -0800 (PST)

On Feb 12, 2009, at 9:29 PM, John Faust wrote:

The house-as-investment view seems at odds with an underlying motivation for
cohousing: the restoration of community in our lives.

I think there are two different meanings to "investment" that are getting confused here.

Developers build real estate projects and either invest their own money or the money of others, or both, to finance the project. While they may have an interest that goes beyond simply making money, they don't intend to live in the project. They expect to get their money back once the project is built. Before the project is sold out, they are at risk of losing all the money, breaking even, or ending up with more money than they started with.

Most cohousing projects forbid or strongly discourage this kind of investment.

For a person who is buying a house to live in, investment means sweat equity as well as financial investment. In cohousing the only real option is to buy, but in other situations households can choose to buy or rent. Most people buy if they can because they believe it is a better investment of their money. The income tax code favors buying. The lower interest rate on mortgages encourages mortgages over cash purchases even if one has the cash. Many neighborhoods refuse to build rental homes.

A home is the largest investment that most people make in their lives. IRAs and other cash retirement plans may be larger but for many people their homes are their retirement funds. They sell the large home in an urban area and buy a small home in a small town.

Unless people invest somewhere, usually in real estate or in cash savings that are invested, they have nothing to live on if or when they can no longer hold a salaried job. Or to send a child to college. Unless you put money under your mattress, it's invested, if only in a savings account. And even if you get no return (that's called a bad investment).

If one's job moves to California, one must be able to move too. That means being able to get the cash from somewhere. Not all moves are either planned or voluntary. Being able to cash in one's investments is necessary for most of us.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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