Re: affordable cohousing, not "gated"
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2010 08:04:42 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 22, 2010, at 9:33 AM, Joanie Connors wrote:

In the course of planning our hopefully affordable cohousing here in
southwest New Mexico, we had a meeting with the Habitat for Humanity
leadership for our town last summer. [ship] The only sticking point was that they had to own
the land underneath the house - shares don't work for them.

This is the kind of requirement/restriction that is present in all the subsidy programs that I know of. That's one reason I think low cost housing has to be done by people who qualify for subsidies.

It reduces diversity, but as Rob Sandelin has pointed out, communities grow toward similarity over time. Like chooses like, and I think most cohousing sales and re-sales go to friends and friends of friends who know about the community and want to move in before units are even on the market.

There are many kinds of diversity, not just economic, so building a community on this basis, shouldn't be seen as uncohousing.

And I've seen people do it. A friend lived in a rent-controlled building in Manhattan in the theater district that had been all but abandoned by the owner. One night I came home with her to find two men in the hallway with a ladder. They were stealing all the light fixtures. Everyone lived with police locks on their doors -- metal bars that were attached to the floor and slid at an angle into metal brackets on the door -- similar to wedging a chair under the door handle. The apartments had been cut into units of 400 sq ft. and smaller. Many of the people were actors living in one of the most expensive cities in the world on the salaries of waiters (yes, all those people serving food are actors, dancers, and artists) _and_ paying for expensive almost daily professional classes.

When the owner put the building up for sale because prices had finally increased enough to make the land worth selling, the residents had to buy the building because it was the only place they could afford to live.

And they did. They formed what we would call a developer's group, learned how to fill out extensive financial reports for various city, state, and federal governments, and scraped enough money together to support the people who went around to the offices and sit there until someone could help them understand the paper work. They dug up pro bono lawyers and got accountants to explain how to get and present numbers.

As a result the developing residents were able to get enough subsidies to buy and rehab the building, move up to family-sized apartments, and have families. No one lost their apartments though many moved on because it took years. I forget a exactly how many, but not more than it has taken to build many cohousing communities.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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