Re: affordable cohousing, not "gated"
From: Jan DeKenis (
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2010 22:02:51 -0800 (PST)
I would add that older adults also can be excluded. It's hard to get a mortgage if one's retired and can't tie up a good portion of one' assets by owning outright.

I think you could make an argument that the "gates" of cohousing are
economic in nature. If you can't get a mortgage because of bad credit, poor
job history, or just don't qualify for home ownership based on your income
you are locked out. Not by the community, by the lenders. This is no
different than any other housing ownership.  The economic barriers serve as
a screening device for people with stable jobs and successful income
generation. Thus, home ownership is a form of achievement, requiring a
certain level of functional ability to hold a job.  Since home ownership is
a central feature of cohousing, this is unlikely to change.  There are other
forms of community which are not based on home ownership and many have very
little investment requirements.  One downside to this is that these can
attract people who are highly dysfunctional and thus the community can end
up spending inordinate amounts of energy dealing with social pathology,
something cohousing, with its economic barriers is largely free from. The
obvious downside to the economic gate keeping of mortgages is that it
excludes some excellent people, especially younger adults.

It is too bad there is not more rental ability built into cohousing. At
Sharingwood we have some rental spaces, but its much easier to have separate
apartment setups in our large homes. The ability to remodel a basement, or
other space into a separate living space could be planned into developments
for future rental spaces but would require thinking ahead and also paying
ahead the costs of plumbing stubs and other systems. I know that having
rentals helps some people here pay their mortgages, while creating living
spaces for people with rental incomes or who want to try out this weird
community living experiment before investing in ownership.

Rob Sandelin
Snohomish County, WA

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