Re: affordable cohousing, not "gated"/ Habitat
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 19:56:16 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 23, 2010, at 5:10 PM, Diana E Carroll wrote:

 last I calculated this out
for someone, total housing costs for a 3br 40B were somewhere in the
vicinity of $900 a month (including condo fees.) Which for this area is
a drop-dead great rate,

I think that is a drop dead rate anywhere, but I can't see how you got these figures.

 eastern MA has a great
lack of affordable (not "low cost") housing.  (Probably "low cost" too
but that's not what 40B is meant to deal with.)
We don't claim to offer "low cost" housing, we claim to offer housing
affordable to people with "low income" as defined by the state. And we
do.  Yay!

As someone pointed out, the definition of affordable in the 40b legislation is the same as the low income for HUD. So using it as a comparison point equals out the figures.

Your claim, that prompted my response, was that mixing people with very
different income levels made for bad community because of "different
lifestyles".    I have not found that to be the case so far.

From your website, it appears that you have been moved in about a year? That's still the honeymoon. Check back in 5 years.

They set condo fees? The monthly condo fees?

Yes, the state calculates exactly what the cost for 40b housing can be
(which means condo fees plus mortgage plus taxes). So we work backwards
from there, figuring out what condo fees should be and how much the
houses will cost.

How long do these calculations work? What happens if your condo fee doubles? If so what happens if the person's income doubles and their condo fee still has to be under a certain limit?

We had subsidies in DC too but not so extensive or based on total costs. The City had a program where people with incomes under a threshold, I think it was $45,000 a year, got a $5,000 credit on the down payment. The city offered a $5,000 tax credit for anyone buying their first home. The developer also applied for a program that allowed a low interest rate on some mortgages. One set was 6.25% and another 7.45% (those are approx numbers) and were based on income and the number of funds the developer applied for.

Because of the $5,000 credit that could be used for the down payment, some people had small or no closing costs. They also had to pay back a prorated amount of the first time homebuyer grant if they moved within 5 years. The purpose was to encourage long term or planning to become long term residents rather than attracting flippers or investors.

I may have some of those numbers mixed up -- they are from a blurred memory -- given just to illustrate another way cities subsidize housing -- lump sum payments and credits up front. No restrictions long term except for the 5 year residency.

How do you separate condo fees from cohousing fees? What fits where?

That discussion is probably way too involved for the list, but the short
description is that essential site expenses (insurance, plowing, site
lighting) fall under "condo fees" (fee ratio between units is fixed by
deed) whereas more optional community oriented stuff (common house
upkeep, meals, laundry, hot tub, internet service, etc.) falls under
"cohousing dues", which are on a sliding scale starting at $5 a month
(our highest contributors pay about $125, most folks are somewhere in

i think you will find that your condo fees will need to be much higher. Mine was at that rate when I moved in but is now over $300. The estimates pre-move-in were far off the mark and it has taken a long time to establish a healthy reserve fund.

Perhaps I'm reading between the lines but your tone sounds skeptical and
your questions feel like you are trying to "catch us" saying something
that would prove your point.  What's up with that?

I'm not skeptical, just trying to be as clear as possible about the numbers. People seem afraid to discuss numbers on this list, and I think it is the only way to get realistic about how low cohousing can go. Using the HUD figures is helpful in defining income limits and expected housing costs.

I would like to hear from the people needing low cost housing to respond to these figures. How low would they have to go to make a project possible for you? How would you feel about a long-term subsidy from your neighbors?

 If your goal is to prove we
aren't doing what we say we are, then I think I'm going to bow out of
the conversation for now.  Life's too short.

See above. I just want to establish some figures for a basis of comparison.

Sharon Villines in Washington DC
Where all roads lead to Casablanca

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