Affordable / rental cohousing
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Sun, 8 Sep 2013 05:35:26 -0700 (PDT)
About a month ago there was a flurry of messages about
Affordable / rental cohousing but unfortunately it was a
fast and furious discussion into which crept some accusatory
(you dont have enough rental) and understandable defensiveness.

There were so many messages that I (as list manager) had
a complaint of too many digests.  I increased the maximum size
of digests to try and decrease the number.

But now that things have settled down a bit including several days
with no messages, I want to bring up  Affordable / rental cohousing

One message that may have not gotten the attention it deserved was
from Kathryn McCamant, co-author of _Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach
to Housing Ourselves_ which introduced cohousing to the US 25 years ago.
Her architectural firm is at

Her message has an overview of the difficulties in
including rental in cohousing in the United States.
The message was a reply to a message with a "digest" subject line:

A few comments on her mesage and the topic:

Kathryn McCamant wrote:
>... general recommendation I am hearing from various sources is
>keeping the total number of rentals to 30% or less will help your
>community be sure that you can get the most competitive mortgage
>financing rates.

I (Fred) think if most communities aimed for 10-20% affordable rental
that that would be an admirable goal and my guess is that is far
higher than we average now.

One of the observations from N Street cohousing in Davis California (a
college town which may be relevant) is that some of the people with
the most "newcommer enthusiasm" for cohousing were renters.  They may
have been in a stage of life where buying was not an option and they
may have moved on after a year or two but during that time they tended
to be active members.  And who knows maybe where they moved on to
included a more permanent cohousing situation.

Here in Minneapolis amongst community activists, rental housing is
viewed with some reluctance because it is perceived that renters
have less of a stake in their housing and therefore in their
neighborhood.  But I contend that this is not necessarily the case for
all renters and that if rental units are mixed in with homeowners
it is less of a problem.

Recruiting renters for a cohousing community becomes critical to find
people who really want to live in cohousing rather than those who just
want a nice place to rent.  And of course it is complicated by fair
housing / anti discrimination laws.

A community in Denmark that was owned by a non-profit / goverment
organization (it was Denmark) that we visited that had little say in
the recruitment of residnets and it is my impression that this was a
factor in their being a less successful than they might have been
if the community had been more able to recruit members. Another
community had the right to recruit members for a given period of
time after an opening and the owner could market units after that

Would it be possible to rent units on a short term trial basis to
prospective members to let them and the community get to know each
other better before entering a lease arrangement?

I often reccommend that people exploring a community stay in the
guest rooms to experience the community around the clock.

Kathryn McCamant wrote:
>If you are interested in rental or permanently affordable cohousing, I
>would urge you to organize a group specifically with that goal and
>approach the local non-profit affordable housing developers in your

I would hope this does not just imply a few execeptional communities
with rental units. I think we would be more successful if most
communities had some rental.  That is I would urge all forming
communities to be "interested in rental or permanently affordable
cohousing". It further complicates a difficult process but I think it
is important to broaden and deepen our success.

Some non-profit affordable housing developers retain ownership of
units as rental or have an affiliate organization who owns and manages
the rental. Partnering with them to own some cohousing units seems like a
viable option.

Another route to affordability (tho not rental) that has been
discussed here is the Land Trust route.  Having a Land Trust own a few
( or more?) units in cohousing seems worth exploring.


Fred H. Olson  Minneapolis,MN 55411  USA        (near north Mpls)
     Email:        fholson at      612-588-9532
My Link Pg:         My org:
Communications for Justice -- Free, superior listserv's w/o ads

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.