Re: Creating more affordable cohousing - a personal story...
From: Ann Zabaldo (
Date: Sat, 29 Dec 2012 08:44:23 -0800 (PST)
Hi all -- see below.

> One thing I'd like to know about: I thought that the fair housing laws which
> govern affordable housing practices made restrictions on residents (such as
> you "must be want to live and participate in cohousing") impossible.

> I
> thought that requirements for participation in cohousing were incompatible
> with publicly-funded (or even privately-funded) housing developments. How is
> this being handled? Or maybe I have some part of the story wrong, not sure. 
> Best regards,
> Mariana

There are several issues here.  One is Fair Housing Laws -- people more expert 
than moi can comment on these in more detail.  Generally, FHLs say you can't 
discriminate against anyone who wants to buy or rent a home.  So if you're 
selling or renting on the open market and John or Mary Doe comes to purchase or 
rent and meets all other qualifications you must sell or rent to him or her.

Another one is ... municipalities that make funding available to developments 
for affordable housing have an interest in making sure the housing goes to 
those buyers who meet their income and other requirements.  Some municipalities 
have a waiting list, others have a lottery.  

Just these two things make it difficult to build "affordable cohousing."  

However, affordability can be achieved in other ways one of which is reduced 
home size.  Seriously reduced size.  Serious downsizing.

Another is building in  "edge" areas.  Everyone wants to live in the "cool" 
part of town.  Build in an edge area and make THAT a "cool" part of town.  

Build in an area of town you can afford to buy.  

In the past there have been mortgages available for homes that meet certain 
"green" standards.  I don't know if these still exist but maybe someone on this 
list would know or would volunteer to find out. 

Seriously consider URBAN living.  Quit chopping up farm land.  NOT green and 
sustainable.  (I love starting spirited discussions on this list.  I'm sure 
this will spark some push back.  Bring it on!  SMILE!)   In some 
municipalities, to encourage revitalization in identified districts the 
government will offer special incentives if you "live where you work."  These 
can be very valuable.  Baltimore City does this.  Urban sites are perfect for 
cohousing.  Tight clustered living.  Very green.  Very sustainable.

I come across a lot of people who have a fixed idea of what they want their 
future home to look like when it's a vacant lot.   E.g. it has to have TREES.  
Well.  For heaven's sake:  PLANT some trees.  Just because the site didn't 
START w/ trees doesn't mean it will NEVER have trees. 

Consider "house sharing."  Prior to cohousing I lived in the same group house 
(Not a half-way house!!!) for 15 years.  It was GREAT!  If it wasn't for 
cohousing I'd still be living there!  Mini-cohousing!  You can design a home w/ 
a suite for each member while you share the common areas.

Work w/ a professional developer.  No matter how much you THINK you can save, a 
professional developer will save you time, energy and money.  

I'm sure there are other "affordable" answers to the challenge of 
affordability.  What are some others out there?  Zev mentioned how Nomad 
created affordability.  Any others?

Best --

Ann Zabaldo
Takoma Village Cohousing
Washington, DC
Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
Falls Church VA

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