Re: Sustainably Low-Cost Housing
From: Marganne Meyer (
Date: Sun, 23 May 2010 01:46:44 -0700 (PDT)
At 3:33 PM -0400 5/22/10, Sharon Villines wrote:
I don't know what they current figures for disability support.

At 2-3 times income level, this would put home prices at $41,600 - $62,400 at the bottom level, and $82,000-$123,000 a the upper level.

I don't think the current focus on affordable units is radical enough to provide housing at this income level.

In general, on this list, the focus has been on building homes that run more than $250,000, from what I remember reading the past few years.

Disability, if you are lucky and are on SSDI, runs about $1,300 a month, not including supplemental Medicare coverage. That's less than $16,000 a year, just for a ballpark figure. Expenses depend a lot on which disability you have and what type of housing you can find.

I've yet to find any way to get a mortgage based on this level of income. I have some money set aside which I could use to pay cash for an affordable unit (probably $50,000 or less), but that isn't commonplace. Home expenses also include maintenance -- like replacing a roof or fixing the heat or air conditioning, etc. Even if I could afford the buy in, my income probably isn't flexible enough to pay for major repairs or maintenance.

If the cost of a home doesn't come down to some of the figures Sharon quoted, I'll probably be renting the remainder of my life. Federal guidelines say people on disability can't afford to pay more than one-third their income for rent, which comes to around $450 a month. If you are out of work, that figure is even less and is temporary (unemployment benefits).

Perhaps if more people on this list actually faced having to live with these income restrictions, the focus would be more radical. I've seen many people come and go on this list once they find out the median cost of cohousing is more than they can afford.

The subject is raised several times a year here, but hasn't gained traction. I understand why this (doesn't) happen. It's not a happy circumstance to consider. Focus on these types of units is much greater on mailing lists that include folks who receive income similar to what Sharon has outlined.

I'd love to have a serious discussion about a cohousing model where the smaller, sustainable homes cost $40,000 and the buy-in for the rest of the project is $10,000. Yes, this is possible.


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