CohoUS support for affordable cohousing and forming communities - Soon!
From: Grace Kim (
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 2010 14:58:09 -0800 (PST)
I'm writing unofficially as a board member of the Cohousing Association
of the US (aka CohoUS) and as an informed advocate/architect of
"affordable housing" - I'm using this in the HUD defined context more
commonly known by the average person as "low income housing".

I've been waiting to wade into the discussion, until I had things in
order.  But I think this is a great time to provide some resources for
use/consideration now and to offer some insights into activity that
CohoUS is planning to undertake in the upcoming 2 years that may
alleviate some of the barriers for participation in cohousing (either as
renter or owner).

Resources to research now (I'm writing very simply to illustrate these
programs...please understand that you will have to research programs
further to understand how they may/may not apply to you/your region of

1)  Community Land Trusts (CLT) are one means by which lower income
people (not poor, but the average working person) may be able to access
homeownership.  Historically these have been thought of as trusts to set
aside/preserve open space or natural areas.  But there are community
land trusts (I'll speak specifically about WA state which is where I
reside) that provide mortgage assistance for homes.  These mortgages
start with the individual person and not a specific project.  

How it works (in a VERY general nutshell):
You contact CLT and work with them to determine eligibility.
You purchase home/condo with the CLT assisted mortgage (I'm not sure if
they provide the mortgage or work with you to secure a mortgage w/ a
previously negotiated bank).
CLT owns the land, you own the physical home.
When you sell, you gain appreciation on equity of home.  CLT is repaid
equity and appreciation on land - this money is then used to assist
another homebuyer for purchase of another property.

Here's a link for more info

2)  Section 8 voucher:
In highly urbanized areas, higher than usual Area Median Income (AMI)
may allow average working people to be eligible for "affordable housing"
programs.  Section 8 is one such program.  With a Section 8 voucher,
individuals can find an apartment anywhere as long as the renting
person/party is willing to accept the Section 8 voucher.  I've spoken
with someone at a Housing Authority in the Seattle area and they said
that anyone can become registered to accept Section 8 vouchers (and it
is fairly easy to do so) - including Cohousing communities.  So to
someone's previous point - if there is a will, there is a way.  

I've not yet researched this, but am planning to do so w/ the CohoUS
Task Group that has been chartered.

CohoUS activities for 2010/2011:
The national Cohousing association is working on 2 initiatives (among
many others) that may open some more doors in this arena.

1) In 2011, the National Cohousing Conference will take place in
Washington DC.  In preparation a Task Group is being created to develop
a comprehensive advocacy plan to be carried out by attendees of the
conference.  This group will be looking at ways that existing
communities have incorporated affordable units, documenting those
practices and sharing those with other communities.  We will also be
looking at ways to encourage HUD and developers to support/build more
cohousing communities through policies and incentives.  A job
description and application for those volunteers interested in
participating on this Task Group will be posted to this list serve as
well as on within the following month.

2) We are also looking at how to support forming communities.  While we
are finalizing our action plan, some of the items discussed are "info
packets" to support forming groups. These info packets would provide
some "best practices" or examples of how communities have
tackled/addressed the early tasks that all communities face - i.e., how
to find a bank, how to create/write a vision statement, how to
determine/collect membership fees, how to conduct socials, how/when to
hire professionals, etc.  

These info packets may also offer insights for outreach to diverse
communities, and how to include affordable units into a project.  

Another topic this group may investigate might be microlending or a
coho-bank (individuals or existing communities financing other
communities, etc.)  

We will be looking for help in writing these packets as well as general
participation in this committee, so please stand by for that application

With your help and input, I'm confident that there will be some great
resources/progress in the affordable cohousing arena over the next
couple of years.  We hope to share progress on both these fronts at the
2010 National Cohousing Conference in Boulder (June 18-20).

grace h kim aia, architect & cofounder
schemata workshop | empowering communities through architecture
1720 12th ave #3  seattle wa 98122  v 206 285 1589


Recipient of 2009 Mayor's Small Business Award

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