Re: Cohousing-L Digest, Vol 90, Issue 14
From: Ann Maria Bell (
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 14:21:33 -0700 (PDT)
> Message: 3
> Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 11:12:24 -0400
> From: Sharon Villines <sharon [at]>
> Subject: Re: [C-L]_ cohousing vision
> On 8 Jul 2011, at 2:07 AM, Ann Maria Bell wrote:
> > So long as cohousing communities are based on home-ownership they will be
> > "middle class" by definition.
> Which definition are you using? Many working class people own their own
> homes.

I was responding to the original post titled "cohousing vision" by Gerald
Manata which used the term "middle class" repeatedly. I don't find it a
useful or well-defined category which is why I put it in quotes.
Coincidentally, Rep. Alan Grayson has a list of the 5 things that you need
to be "quote 'middle class'. Number one, having a job. Number two, owning a
home. Number three, owning a car. Number four, having affordable health
care, and number five, a pension." **

> > Here at Arboretum Cohousing 100% of our homes
> > are owner-occupied. [snip] At its highest, the home ownership rate in the
> US
> > was about 60%. That means that 40% of the population is eliminated from
> the
> > pool of potential cohousers from the start, including the poor & most
> young
> > adults.
> "Eliminated" in what way?

The home-ownership model eliminates people who either can't afford to own
their own homes or who are at a stage in their life where it doesn't make
sense. We've designed our cohousing communities so that people in the bottom
third of the income distribution will not be represented. Structuring a
community around ownership means less economic diversity. As you pointed
out, owning a home doesn't make sense for a lot of people. The basic
cohousing model has no place for them.

In cohousing, the movement is just too small to absorb people who can't
> manage risk. At last calculation only about 1600 people live in cohousing in
> the US. Not sure if those figures include Canada. Even at 3,000 it would be
> less than one urban housing project. That is a very small number to make any
> economic difference in terms of ability to raise funds and get government
> subsidies of any size.

Arboretum Cohousing was able to get some grants from CDBG, some from the
city of Madison, and a credit against the purchase price of the land (which
we purchased from a hospital) to build affordable units. In addition, two of
our homes (a duplex) were built by Habitat for Humanity. However, they are
still based on home ownership. I don't think the issue is the number of the
cohousing communities, it's that we've  chosen a particular ownership-based
structure that excludes poor people. In this sense, the original poster was
right. Cohousing is a "middle class" movement based on private home

In contrast, you could imagine a developer building a cohousing apartment
complex then leasing the entire thing long-term to a community which is
responsible for renting the units out and doing some of the maintenance.
Madison Community Coop basically does this for shared cooperative housing.
Madison also a complex of cooperative apartments where the residents
maintain the property, but unfortunately it doesn't have any common space


> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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