Re: affordable cohousing, not "gated"/ Habitat
From: Elizabeth Magill (
Date: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 06:07:36 -0800 (PST)
Yes, we at Mosaic Commons Cohousing were able to subsidize the homes in such a way that 25% of the households will be able to buy the same homes as ours at "40B" rates.

We could do it because economic diversity was our value from the beginning (or more accurately from before I joined in 2000). I've always known my house would cost more in order to make this happen and personally, I wouldn't have joined if that wasn't true.

The households who qualify have less than $75K in assets, and put down at least 3.5% of the cost of the home. The rest is mortgage. Therefore they need to have OK credit to qualify for that mortgage.

Condo fees are set by the state to fit the formula so that 1 or 2 people will qualify for the 1BR home, 3 people will qualify for the 2BR home, and 4 or more people will qualify for a 3BR home. (We only have 1, 2, 3BRs in the "affordable" program.)

That is, there are income limits based on number of people in the home, and the home prices were set so that people very near that income level will qualify for that mortgage with 3.5% down.

Outside of the condo fee, we also have a cohousing fee. This is on a sliding scale. Again, this was a value (and agreed on policy) created very early in our process. Everyone pledged what we felt we could afford (we were told the average we were aiming for) and the pledged amount came in slightly above our goal.

I, like Diana, find that what people can offer in terms of time and money is quite different by household and by person. I don't see that it is very closely aligned with MY values, its amazing how people don't see things my way! If I were to be anxious about evaluating such things, the line about fairness, for me at least, wouldn't align with the 40b vs. market rate line. But when I'm at my healthiest I remember that community works best if I don't get anxious about such things.

Interestingly, the state was very concerned that we not "force" the families that qualify for the homes to join the cohousing. But what we have found so far is that the families that want to live in our community are really quite similar to us, and are buying here BECAUSE they want to be in cohousing.

(The Rev.) Elizabeth M. Magill
PastorLiz [at]
Worcester Fellowship
PO Box 3510 Worcester MA 01613

On Jan 23, 2010, at 1:39 AM, Sharon Villines wrote:

On Jan 22, 2010, at 2:34 PM, Diana E Carroll wrote:

Our subsidized "affordable" homes are priced to be accessible to
with incomes between $40K and $80K a year depending on number of
children and size of the home.  Our "market rate" homes when we first
went on the market reflected the economic situation in our state --
were affordable mostly for households making $100K and upwards.

The reason I keep coming back to this issue is that the conversation
keeps blurring the distinctions between affordable and low cost.

For Berlin MA, where Mosaic Commons is, the median income is $103,800.
Affordable is defined as 80% of the median income. The only thing I
was able to find (or understand) about 40b, your subsidy program, is
that it allows developers to bypass local density zoning laws.

It's hard to find figures but here are some. I hope I got them right.
I'm not an expert on dealing With HUD figures.

HUD sets income limits that determine how much rent a household has to
pay in subsidized housing. I think these are good figures to use to
determine how much these households could pay to live in cohousing. In
Berlin these rates are:

Low Income, $46,300 for one person: Pays 80% of the fair market rent
to live in subsidized housing.

Very low income, $35,850 : 50%

Extremely low income, $21,500: 30%

Fair Market Rent in Berlin is $714 for an efficiency and $1050 for a

So one person with a low income of $46,300 would be expected to be
able to pay a monthly rent of $571 for an efficiency and $840 for a
two bedroom.

With a very low income of $35,850, $357 and $525.

Extremely low income of $21,500, $214 and $315.

Was your cohousing community able to build units that would allow a
low income person to pay $571 a month in mortgage payments _and_ condo
fees for an efficiency? Or for a two-bedroom, $840. Did you build any

IF they could get a down payment together, one can assume they would
need a full mortgage, that they would not have $100,000 lying around
to pay down a mortgage to a rate that they could afford.

If Mosaic Commons was able to pull this off, others would like to hear
about it.

So here we are, living in community with households making from $40K a
year on up a guess, $250K a year (not that I actually quiz
anyone on their income :-).

Are there the same number of people in each of those households?

To I sometimes resent them their free time?
Sure.  Do they sometimes resent taking on a big portion of the
community's labor?  Probably.

How long have you been moved in? One of our problems was that our real
condo fee was three times that of the fee projected. This affected low
income people significantly.


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