Re: Two homes for sale at Westwood Cohousing in Asheville, North Carolina -- update about links.
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Sat, 20 Aug 2016 03:26:02 -0700 (PDT)
I always look at this one differently:  Cohousing costs exactly the same as 
“regular” housing.

Turn the question around:  How much housing can we afford?  When we go shopping 
for housing, the main constraint is location, and after that, it’s size and 
quality.  But we all have an approximate housing budget we see ourselves 
working with.  If we stay within that budget, we will have money leftover for 
food, clothing, dentistry, savings, a car, and maybe a vacation.  If we go way 
over that budget, we will be pinching pennies to pay for all other aspects of 
our lives.

What’s a typical or average housing budget?  Lot’s of room for debate here, but 
estimates and recommendations are that a maximum of 25% to 30% of disposable 
income should go toward rent or mortgage, insurance, property taxes, and condo 
/ HOA fees.  This is an average or target for middle income families.  The poor 
tend to pay a (much) higher percentage, which is why they have so little for 
other life expenses.  Households in other circumstances may pay less, because 
the mortgage is paid off (it can happen, yes it can), or because they don’t 
want or need “big” or “fancy” houses.

Anyway, we all have personal and family budgets for housing.  In the 
conventional single family market, that budget will buy us a certain location, 
size and quality of home.  In the cohousing market, we pay the same (it’s what 
we can “afford”), but we get more commons, less privatized sq ft, and a *very* 
different lifestyle.

Cohousing is hardly an “elite” enterprise; I don’t have much sociology to back 
this up, but I am guessing that most “elites” are looking for privacy and 
“luxury”, not community.  Nonetheless, cohousing strikes many shoppers as 
“expensive” because …
     (1) The private residence portion feels “small” compared to a some single 
family units around the corner.
     (2) There isn’t much to choose from (yet).  And,
     (3) Average housing cost in general is rising faster than average 
household income, particularly in “good” locations.

So there is no reason for cohousing to be cheaper than regular housing.  Even 
so, I think there are several cost advantages cohousing offers, and/or could 
exploit better.  These are …
    (1) SHARED SPACE.  If you have access to a communal arts and crafts room, 
you may not need a finished basement; if you have access to communal guest 
room, you may not need a private “spare” bedroom.  If you have access to a 
common dining room, your own dining/living space may work just fine even if 
it’s very small.  In cohousing, most of us just don’t need a “big” house.  
(Yes, I know, this runs contrary to the American dream …)
    (2) MULTIFAMILY CONSTRUCTION FORMAT.  At the same quality levels, dwelling 
units that share foundations, walls, roofs, and utility systems will always be 
cheaper per sq ft than single family homes.  Duplexes have a slight advantage; 
row houses more so; and apartment buildings will do best of all.  (If zoning 
allows them.)
     (2) SHARING GENERALLY.  Cohousing has sharing opportunities rarely present 
in other housing models.  Buy and share a commercial-grade ISP / wifi.  Buy and 
share a community car for errands around town.  Share baby-sitting services.  
Share an electric knife sharpener, or some other amenity one would probably not 
buy on one’s own.  These items may sound trivial; nonetheless, they do add up 
to a significant portion of many private budgets.  (But they are hard to 
compute when one is deciding what to pay for a dwelling unit.)

At bottom, cohousing is neither more expensive nor less expensive than the 
alternatives.  It’s just very different.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Village Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

> On Aug 19, 2016, at 10:01 PM, Muriel Kranowski <murielk [at]> wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 9:46 PM, Virgil Huston <virgil.huston1955 [at] 
> wrote:
>> ....My question is, is there anywhere in the US where cohousing is
>> actually affordable for the unwashed masses? Is there any cohousing
>> available for people who cannot afford $300K plus homes? I love the
>> concept, but it certainly seems like a pretty elitist thing.
> This issue comes up a lot here. My assumption is that a house in a
> cohousing community will cost about the same as a much bigger house in a
> similar (non-coho) neighborhood, because of the common elements, especially
> the Common House, that goes into everyone's unit price.
> Is my assumption right, or is cohousing really a lot more expensive than a
> similar but bigger house in a somewhat equivalent middle or slightly
> upper-middle class neighborhood?
> By the way, we have two units for sale now at $230K and $250K. They're both
> small, probably just right for 1 person or a couple, each with a space for
> a roommate to help pay the mortgage. That doesn't seem very elitist to me.
> But we're not in a major city or a happening place like Asheville.
>   Muriel at Shadowlake Village Cohousing in Blacksburg
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