Affordable Cohousing: Series Introduction
From: Chris ScottHanson (
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2015 09:51:49 -0800 (PST)
Affordable Cohousing    

[submitted to cohousing-l in weekly installments, for comment and input.]

You’re probably tired of hearing about smaller units, standardization, simple 
unit plans, modest finishes, all with the goal of achieving more affordability. 
 Well it’s true, these all help, but there are other affordability strategies 
that are based on interpersonal relationships, community, and trust, that can 
be just as effective, if not more so.

The strategies outlined in the series to follow have been collected over the 
past 25 years of doing cohousing projects across the US and Canada.  Many of 
the strategies outlined below are what I call “internal banking.”   These 
internal banking relationships are magical when they happen, and it would seem 
they can only happen when there is a strong sense of  community, and trust.

Each of these has been used successfully in one project or another.  The vast 
majority of cohousing projects that have been built in North America have 
included a number of internal banking elements which have allowed members with 
some resources to assist members with more limited resources to participate in 
the community.  

There are two primary ways of purchasing your home in cohousing.  In the 
simplest form, these are: 1) an all cash purchase, or 2) a mortgage from a 
bank, usually requiring some downpayment from the purchaser.  The mortgage is 
called a “take out loan” by the construction lender because it takes them out, 
paying off their loan to build the project.

Your cohousing group can adopt some or all of the following strategies for 
achieving a measure of affordability within your project.  Some of these 
strategies work for some people.  Others work for other people.  Some of these 
strategies need to work together.  It all depends on needs, circumstances, 
pride, personal relationships, trust, liquidity, risk willingness, risk 
aversion, and/or time sensitive financial needs.  

1. Internal Down Payment Assistance 
2. Outside Down Payment Assistance
3. Second Mortgages
4. Co-purchase Options
5. First Time Buyers
6. The Reduced Monthly Condo Fee Subsidy.
7. Maintenance Reserve Reinvestment
8. Unit Price Buy Down
9. Design for Affordability - Capital Costs and Operating Costs
10.  Shared Units
11.  Community Owned Rental Unit
12.  Participating Nonresident Owners
13.  Purchase of One or More Units by an Outside Affordable Housing Entity

In the coming weeks I will submit to cohousing-l an explanation of each of 
these strategies.  I hope, if you’re interested, that you will comment, edit, 
expand or help explain how each of these strategies can contribute to making 
cohousing more affordable, to more people.  Share your stories and we can add 
them to the shared wisdom.

Chris ScottHanson
Urban Cohousing Associates, Inc. <>
Land Acquisition, Development Consulting & Project Management
Ecovillages, Cohousing & Sustainable Communities

Fifth Street Commons <>
PO Box 1288
Langley, WA  98260 

(206) 601-7802 cell

Author of:  The Cohousing Handbook - BUILDING A PLACE FOR COMMUNITY
Available from new, used and as an eBook.

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