Re: Creating a New Category of Renter
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 08:26:10 -0800 (PST)
Public subsidy changes everything, always.  But market housing formation,
occupancy and maintenance have the same financial components of input ?
land, construction, energy, debt service, profit, etc ? irrespective of any
associated social or legal vehicle such as cohousing, condo, co-op, rental,
land trust, etc.  Given a specific site and dwelling units of a certain size
and quality, housing units will cost about the same no matter which vehicle
delivers them.

Having just introduced this generality, I¹ll also offer some qualifications:
1. From the standpoint of one¹s fiscal lifetime, renting is ALWAYS more
expensive than owning.  Yes, rents may look ³cheaper² in the near term,
especially to those who do not qualify for a mortgage, but over time,
renting is very expensive because one develops no equity, and instead must
contribute to someone else¹s profit.
2. The primary means for cohousing to ³save² money, relative to the other
models, is that the founding residents are usually (but not always) their
own developers.  By investing years of time, and precious personal savings,
to create a cohousing community, the founders exclude from the process the
for-profit developer who is looking for a 25% ROI.  And many of us think
this is a trade-off valuable not just in economic terms, but also in social
terms.  So we do it ? even when we understand (as does the for-profit
developer) that there is risk, and we may lose some savings.

My points would therefore be:
1. There is absolutely no reason to imagine that cohousing should be
2. There is very little reason to believe that we are helping lower-income
households by including rental units in our communities.  Unless, of course,
we are committed to internal cross-subsidies whereby we intentionally pay
MORE for our condos, so that others can pay LESS for their rents.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

On 2/10/11 3:22 AM, "David L. Mandel" <dlmandel [at]> wrote:

> Zev and others:
> Even longer-term rental is problematic unless the landlord is a truly
> accountable community organization -- and even then it can get tricky. Think
> disputes over maintenance, among neighbors, ...
> Have you looked into the community land trust model? It's part way between
> your idea and complete ownership. Ownership of the land (the speculative part
> of real estate) resides permanently with a community based nonprofit, while
> the building is held with long (typically 99-year, renewable, transferrable)
> lease by residents who are responsible for upkeep as any homeowner would be.
> It's quasi-ownership: you can get a mortgage to finance such a purchase, and
> while there are many variations on the theme, a trust that wants to maintain
> affordability permanently can do so by limiting resale prices (linked to area
> median income or cost of living) and imposing economic eligibility limits. It
> quite effectively separates housing from investment. Of course there needs to
> be a source of initial investment to make it work, so without a very large
> source, it's takes housing out of the market little by little. But it's a
> start, and it could set an example that more and
>  more people would eventually demand.
> David
> --- On Wed, 2/9/11, Zev Paiss <zpaiss [at]> wrote:
> From: Zev Paiss <zpaiss [at]>
> Subject: [C-L]_ Creating a New Category of Renter
> To: cohousing-l [at]
> Date: Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 7:39 PM
> Friends,
> Much of the discussion in this forum has surrounded the challenging 
> interaction between renters and owners in a renter cohousing model. I 
> propose that we offer up a totally new category I will call "Permanent 
> or Long-Term Renter." There are millions of Baby Boomers who have had 
> their savings, 401K's and IRA's evaporate over the past several years 
> (myself included) and may no longer expect or want to have a mortgage 
> as they move into their later years. What they (we) do want is 
> stability and the security that we will not be kicked out of our homes 
> because someone else has control over the property.
> I suggest we investigate the possibility of creating 5-20 year rental 
> agreements so those people living in home they do not own, are still 
> able to have the long term security of homeowners.  This kind of 
> arrangement would open up cohousing and cohousing-like communities to 
> many people who can no longer qualify for a mortgages or for whatever 
> reason, do not want to own.
> Zev Paiss
> Nomad Cohousing
> Boulder, CO
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