Re: Looking to Rent, Rent to buy, or Owner Financing to Make a Dream come true!
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2013 07:18:12 -0700 (PDT)
> On Aug 5, 2013, at 2:55 PM, MJWB <mjwyogini [at]> wrote:
>> I believe
>> as always, that Cohousing needs to be for everyone, and accessible to 
>> everyone. This is
>> not the case right now. I know that Denmark has found a way to integrate 
>> rentals along with homeowners, and I don't see why it can't be done here in 
>> the U.S.

There are many messages about this in the archives which I encourage you to 
search out. The not-so-simple answer is:

1.  Rentals require someone to build a house or condo unit to rent out. Few 
people who move into cohousing have the funds to do that. It means building and 
buying two homes - a lot of money upfront.

2. Cohousing wants to encourage community and that has meant long term 
residents. Renters are not regarded as long term renters. And what if raising 
the rent on your neighbor means they have to move out? Landlords are rarely 
viewed sympathetically.

3. "Outside" investors are discouraged. A community doesn't want to feel 
dependent on outsiders or in danger of being manipulated by them. This is a 
realistic concern.

4. Most communities are peopled by people who want to design their own homes 
they way they want them. Building your own home comes at a premium price.

5. The emphasis on diversity has been counter productive in the realm of low 
cost housing. Diversity is embraced by the more highly educated and wealthier 
among us. Many people want openness and freedom but not so much difference in 
values and life circumstances. They want to live with people in the "same 
boat". People who live on minimum incomes want to live with others who are like 
them and not feel embarrassed about not taking an expensive vacation or any 
vacation at all. Or not being able to afford to send their children to private 
schools, etc.

6. And housing is a tough market. Period. Cohousing or not.

My own belief is that it is hard to mix middle and upper income homes with low 
cost homes. Now or down the road the income disparity begins to weigh on people 
as some pay more and others less for the same services. During the construction 
process, expensive amenities that some want begin to creep in. 

In our community, for example, the units are market rate. The market is rising. 
Proportionately, the small units have increased in value much more than the 
large units. I have a two bedroom but it would save me little money to downsize 
to a one bedroom. And it saves new residents very little to purchase a smaller 
unit. They are much less affordable than when we moved in. Even two bedrooms 
have tripled in value in 13 years. If I sold my unit I would make more than I 
received when I retired from 25 years of teaching in a university.

Small units are also very popular and sell faster than larger units -- demand 
increases the relative price. But banks favor large units, two bedrooms are 
minimum because they are more popular. The exception is cities where many 
people can't afford more than a 600 or even 500 square foot studio.

There are a lot of posts in the archives on new technologies, prefab homes, 
etc., that reduce building costs. Many of them are not allowed by zoning, which 
favors standard technology and larger homes. Zoning exceptions are possible, 
however. Cohousing communities of many kinds have obtained zoning exceptions.

So my advice is to explore new technologies and form your own low cost 
cohousing community. Make it part of your mission statement that all units will 
be built to sell below a certain price. And that will mean no amenities beyond 
good construction and sustainability--traditional sustainability like sun 
orientation, small sizes, adobe and straw bale, etc. You will attract many 
people, get lots of interested news media, and have the aid of new/old 
technology companies. 

If I were starting over, that is what I would do. I think that is where half 
the future growth is in housing as well as in cohousing.

I think the second half, which you might also consider, is in converting 
regular condo buildings to cohousing. Forming a group within an already 
existing building. Small condos and floors of big condos have developed the 
same friendships and supports that cohousing has. It has just taken longer 
because it wasn't intentional.

Sharon Villines, Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
"Reality is something you rise above." Liza Minnelli

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