Low Cost Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2010 11:46:56 -0800 (PST)
I think a good basis for comparison of housing costs is the HUD figures. Their formulas maybe right or wrong but they are a stable reference point. They also list market rates, set in large areas so neighborhoods will vary.


For rents:

Low Income, pays 80% of the fair market rate to live in subsidized housing. As noted, this rate is considered affordable in some areas, where the range is usually 80-120% of the average home or rental price.

Very low income, 50%
Extremely low income, 30%

These percentages set subsidies for section 8 housing, which is rental housing, but they represent a good basis for calculating total housing costs.

My mother lived in an apartment building covered by Section 8 that had may features of Cohousing. Each floor had an area by the elevator for socializing. One floor had jigsaw puzzles, another card games, etc. all organized by the residents as they desired. There were also televisions in these areas if the residents wanted them -- not all did.

There was a large dining room with a small kitchen, mostly used for potlucks and bingo games (bingo not obligatory). A lounge area on the first floor. A patio outside with tables and chairs.

Residency was long term because as incomes changed, the subsidies changed. People didn't have to leave because their income went higher or lower than the subsidies allowed. And they didn't have to have subsidies at all. For the landlord there was no difference between subsidized and non-subsidized.

The apartments were like standard apartments that one could find anywhere -- not necessarily green and not designed by residents. But they were not unlike our apartments at Takoma Village. I think there were four floors, possibly three. Definitely larger than cohousing communities but not huge. Their concept is "large enough to support an onsite management team" which is not always a bad thing.

So it might be possible to find a builder who wanted to build such housing and for cohousing to form within it.

On section 8:
The Section 8 Rental Voucher Program increases affordable housing choices for very low-income households by allowing families to choose privately owned rental housing. The public housing authority (PHA) generally pays the landlord the difference between 30 percent of household income and the PHA-determined payment standard-about 80 to 100 percent of the fair market rent (FMR). The rent must be reasonable. The household may choose a unit with a higher rent than the FMR and pay the landlord the difference or choose a lower cost unit and keep the difference.

Here "affordable" is relative to income level and not a defined category.


Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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