Re: Sustainably Low-Cost Housing
From: Leslye Janusz (
Date: Sat, 22 May 2010 12:51:44 -0700 (PDT)
Thank you for your wonderful analysis.  Yes, cohousing shouldn't be a
"middle class" endeavor. We need to figure out ways to make it affordable
within the realm of what's considered low-cost housing since it's folks in
that category who would benefit greatly and often get the concept better
than those living in 5000 sq foot mini mansions who can afford to downsize
and still pay top dollar for their cohousing unit.

On Sat, May 22, 2010 at 12:33 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]
> wrote:

> I changed the name of this thread from "Strategy for Affordable
> Housing" to "Sustainably Low-Cost Housing" for two reasons:
> (1) We aren't getting down to the price point (to use some jargon)
> necessary for cohousing to be inclusive, and
> (2) Many of the solutions don't keep low-cost housing low cost.
> Low cost housing by my definition is for people earning less and much
> less than $40,000 a year. The median household income in the US in
> 2007 was $50,233.00 and it included the income for all working members
> of the household.
> What is it in cohousing? Retired people living on low incomes in
> cohousing should not be included in these calculations because in all
> probability they purchased their units with earnings on previous homes
> or from savings and carry no or a small mortgage. I fall into this
> category and my mortgage costs are far less than my young neighbors
> because they are mortgaged to the hilt. The  monthly difference for me
> and a young person in a unit exactly like it but fully mortgaged is
> about $2,000 a month, or ~20,000 a year. And that is with unusually
> low interest rates. When rates go up again, I will still be at the
> same rate, and new purchasers will be paying much more.
> Sustainably low-cost also means low cost to maintain. it won't fall
> apart in 10 or 20 years or leak so much that it can't be heated. Or
> lose its subsidy. Cities can and do sell subsidized housing that then
> becomes market rate housing. Funding programs are cut.
> The income figures:
> 52 weeks X 40 hours = 2090 hours X $10 an hour = $20,800 income, minus
> taxes.
> $15 an hour gets it up to $31,350.
> I know a lot of people working for $20 an hour, $41,000.
> 33% of income spent on _all_ housing costs would be $6,864 to $13,530
> a year. Leaky houses alone eat this up very fast.
> 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.
> To be representative of the general population, at least half of the
> community would have to earn below $50,000 per household --even with
> two people working. In the communities that have included subsidized
> housing, have the number of units gone above 10% of units? Or even
> gotten up to 10%?
> I'm not criticizing cohousing as being a middle-class movement as some
> have done. I understand that given the assumptions and circumstances,
> it had to be. One of the reasons being that it was strictly a do-it-
> yourself project and it took professionals to understand how to do it
> and able to spend the incredible number of hours it took to get it
> done. And even then, many, many failed.
> But now the concept has proven itself. A lot of the questions have
> been answered and a lot of information is available. It might be a
> good time to begin thinking strategically about the other half.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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