Re: Affordable Cohousing
From: David Hornick (
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 2009 07:50:27 -0700 (PDT)
I realize that everyone appreciates that 'affordability' relates to more
than the cost of materials, architectural services and labor, but I thought
I'd make a few explicit statements regarding the matter.

Cost of Construction:  Depends greatly upon location.  A home that must be
able to provide a comfortable living environment in the climatic extremes of
the northern US, must cost much more than a home built in  a more temperate
climate such as San Diego where insulation, heating and cooling systems and
landscaping elements are vastly different.    Cohousing that is built in
certain parts of Mexico, requires different design to assure a comfortable
living environment and no (or minimal) systems for heating and cooling.
These areas have year-round temperatures ranging between 60 and 85 degrees
Fahrenheit.  Also, labor costs are so much lower in Mexico that the finished
cost of a typical home is about $50 per square foot (without sweat equity).

Cost of Living:  Depends upon cost for food and energy, taxes, insurance,
healthcare  and, as people age and become functionally and cognitively
frail, the cost of hands-on care.

Energy costs:  In Oaxaca, Mexico, there are over 300 days per year with
sunshine (less than 60 cloudy days per year) and there is little variation
in the amount of daylight throughout the year (12-13 hours per day).
Solar-generated electricity makes a great deal of sense and markedly reduces
the cost of living compared to northern climates where larger, much more
costly solar systems must be deployed for similar energy generation.

Food costs:  In Oaxaca, Mexico,  food costs in the local supermarket and
numerous farmer's markets are about half those in the United States. Most
food is grown locally 12 months a year and is 'fresh'.

Personal care:  Typically, in the US this care costs about $20 per hour
(over $3000 per week for 24 hour care in a person's home).  In Mexico, the
same care can be provided for $300 per week.

Housekeeping and yard work / gardening assistance:  The usual rate of pay is
about $2.50 to $3.00 per hour.

Property taxes:  Usually substantially less than $500 per year for a 2000
square foot home.

Insurance:  Less than half the cost of the US.

Healthcare:  National health insurance for expatriots is less than $1500 per

The cost of a 1000 square foot home built in Oaxaca Mexico costs about
$50,000 to $100,000 (depending upon the cost for furnishings).  Average
daily cost of living is about $20 per day.

These figures are based upon my best efforts to collect information talking
with knowledgeable North Americans living in Mexico (estimated to be more
than 1 million US citizens, alone).

Crime in Mexico (because I know the subject will come up)?  Probably a lot
less than crime in many US and Canadian cities  (see article:

Where one chooses to live involves various trade-offs and accommodations.
When affordability is the primary issue, climate and the cost of living are
enormously important and should be an important part of the dialogue.

David Hornick

Mexicommunity Intentional Community Project

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