Re: The Future of Cohousing
From: David L. Mandel (
Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2011 11:54:18 -0800 (PST)
Hi Zev. Good to hear from you, and I'll add another old-timer's voice on the 
subject in the form of some observations on my personal evolution, alongside 
the developments you mention, since I began working on creating our cohousing 
community back in 1988.
We felt proud to be an early (first?) model of condo ownership cohousing that 
was able to include a few truly low-income people by harnessing public funds to 
provide silent second loans. I touted that a lot at early cohousing 
Even then it added tremendous hassle and delay -- we moved in only five years 
later -- to stick with our determination to be mixed income. And it was 
possible thanks to some special factors: depressed housing market at the time 
that put prices within reach for this scheme; our location in a neighborhood 
"targeted" for redevelopment; and intensive relationship building with Housing 
Authority folks.At best, we realized, affordability of designated low-income 
units would last only 30 years. In fact it was much less for most of them, due 
to the HA's lack of interest in enforcing the resale restrictions, and because 
"low income" was determined only at the time of purchase. While I'm happy for 
them as individuals, the fact that the units can continue to be occupied for a 
long time by people who are no longer low income sort of defeats the purpose.I 
was able to purchase at market rate back then because I hung onto a job I 
disliked longer than I wanted to. 
Very soon after move-in I halved my income and went to work for legal aid, 
developing a program that made work feel a lot more meaningful for quite a 
while.Sixteen-plus years later, that work feels more and more oppressive, as 
funding has dried up, work stresses affect relationships in the program, and 
most of all -- we rescue a few lucky victims of predatory lending from drowning 
by foreclosure while thousands of bodies float by in the raging torrent.Deep 
breath. ... I knew it back in 1988, but now it's clearer than ever that 
something is very wrong with a society that turns housing into a commodity and 
instills the notion that it more an investment than it is fulfillment of a 
human right. The paltry public funding that exists to house a few of the 
poorest of the poor or rescue a few "deserving" victims of loan fraud does more 
to foster divisions and jealousies and debates over who is truly "deserving" 
than it does to actually improve the situation, and
 it's probably about to get worse as Dems. and Repubs. compete to outdo each 
other in worshiping a mythical "free market."I agree with what I think Zev is 
saying, that generic and flexibly applied cohousing ideas can improve the 
quality of any housing development. And I'm impressed that a number of other 
coho projects have found creative ways, better than ours, to incorporate some 
affordability. But even with current low real estate prices, secure ownership 
in our commodity real estate market remains available to a privileged minority, 
and the idea of private rental cohousing, the suggestion that opened this 
discussion, is not a meaningful path to affordability, not to mention the 
landlord/tenant conflict that it would inevitably create.I will continue to 
admire any of us who have the incredible creativity and energy it takes to 
carve out some exceptional models of cooperative-minded, affordable, new or 
retrofitted communities. But we really need a
 broader mobilization for creation of a whole different society, in which 
housing is a human right, not an investment. It is possible, but I'm afraid it 
will be a long and very difficult struggle.One of my all-time favorite 
cartoons, years ago and probably in the New Yorker, showed two prehistoric guys 
standing at the entrance to their cave and looking over a vast empty landscape. 
"Hey, I've got a great idea," one says to the other, "let's carve it up into 
little squares and sell them!"
David L. Mandel, Southside Park Cohousing, Sacramento

On Sat, Feb 5, 2011 at 7:48 AM, Zev Paiss <zpaiss [at]> wrote:

> Hello Friends Old and New,
> This thread around rental cohousing is something I believe the
> cohousing world will need to take very seriously in the coming years.
> When I became involved in cohousing in 1991 the world was a different
> place. Back then, there were "only" 5.5 billion people on the planet
> where today, only 20 years later, there is an estimated 6.9 billion
> people. Exponential growth is a powerful thing. Populations everywhere
> are bumping up against the limits of fresh water, food, liquid fuels,
> and jobs in many parts of the world and right here in America.
> I have had the pleasure and the challenge of been at the forefront of
> innovation in the cohousing movement since I began. These include
> helping to create the Rocky Mountain Cohousing Association, the
> CoHousing Journal, eight regional inserts, a color cover, the first
> Cohousing website, beginning to accept credit cards, starting an
> online store, coordinating several regional then the first few
> National conferences, and creating the Elder Cohousing Network.
> The question before us now is how does cohousing address the
> monumental transformations in housing now confronting American
> society. As Kate Ben-Ami stated in her message earlier this week,
>        "I understood that it'll take time for the COHO community to realize
> the complete
>        paradigm shift that has occurred in this country (with regard to
> home
> ownership)."
> This is an unprecedented opportunity for the cohousing model to take
> its 20+ years of experience and apply it to creating models for
> affordable, rental and lower income housing that is so urgently needed
> in this country. Cohousing needs creative leadership who has the
> experience, leadership and connections to take us in this direction.
> Who is ready to join me in this challenge?
> Zev Paiss
> Nomad Cohousing
> Boulder, Colorado
> zpaiss [at]
> 303-413-8066
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