Re: Regarding Affordability in Cohousing - not just cohousing but it IS possible
From: Liz Ryan Cole (
Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2016 05:21:16 -0700 (PDT)
For those people following this thread on affordability (and don’t forget to 
find all the older posts that have been archived)… the issue of affordability 
is not limited to cohousing.  For anyone considering new construction of any 
sort, you will do well to build for $180 per sf or less (and that takes modular 
construction options into account).  In addition to the actual construction of 
your unit and the common space, you have to pay for site work, not to mention 
actually buying the land you will be building on. 

One way cohousers reduce cost is that the developer’s fee (15% is not unusual) 
if often waived when one or more “burning souls” decide that it is so important 
to build that they will do the work a professional developer does for no cost 
(this is not a path I have seen work well, but it is a way some groups save 

Another way to reduce cost is to reduce the actual building cost, but that 
means paying the people actually working on your building less, and they are 
entitled to a reasonable income to support themselves and their own families 

Another way is to have the land donated, or sold at reduced cost, and some 
cohousing groups appeal to one donor or another and can reduce that part of 
their cost. There are a number of communities that have been able to include 
much less expensive units because the land cost has been subsidized.

But overall, the problem is not that housing is so expensive, but that people 
in the US earn so little and taxes on the top 5% are so low that there is 
insufficient money for government help in housing (not to mention other areas).

If people in the cohousing world are interested in helping more people be able 
to afford to live in cohousing they need to work (and this includes working for 
political candidates) to improve housing programs at the federal and state and 
local level - and this can be as modest as getting elected or appointed to a 
town Planning or Zoning Board so that you can work to allow for clustered and 
“dense” development, which makes it possible to reduce overall housing costs 
because there will be more people who can afford to share the cost to purchase 
the land.  You could also work for candidates who believe that people in higher 
income categories should pay more in taxes, and that those taxes could be spent 
to provide for infrastructure (can you tell I am a proud Vermonter who has 
supporter Bernie for decades?) :) 

HOWEVER Having said all that, cohousing STILL has the potential to provide well 
built homes at a price that is lower overall than what you would pay to build a 
traditional home. Cohousers build a smaller home and still live comfortably 
when they build sufficient common space.

The median household income for the United States was $53,657 in 2014. A 
household earning $55,000 could devote $18,500 per year to housing and be 
“affordable” (the goal is no more than 30% of income to housing)  $1500 per 
month is 30% of the annual income of the family earning the median. 

If your building costs average $180 per sf - and residents accept living in 
small homes (assume 300 sf for one person/2 people would share a 600 sf unit 
and your group adds another 250 sf for each person for common space) you could 
build for about $120K.  (I assume 30 people living in community - at 250 sf 
each you could build 7500 of common space and don’t forget to assume at least 
20% for circulation).  

These calculations don’t count site work, or buying the land, but it shows what 
you might be able to do if you don’t have high costs for professionals, or long 
term carrying costs.  Assume you could build a 600 sf unit in a community with 
15 units and 7500 of common space for $170K. 

If you borrow $150,000 at 4.5% for 30 years your monthly cost is $760 and your 
annual cost $9,120.  

So don’t be discouraged, find some like minded people, get an experienced 
cohousing developer, and start to build your community.

  :)  liz
(*whose NH town, where are plan to build has effective 25 acre zoning)

Liz Ryan Cole
lizryancole [at]
Pinnacle Cohousing at Loch Lyme Lodge
Lyme, NH
Home 802.785.4124
Work 802.831.1240
Loch Lyme Lodge 603-795-2141

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire 
to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
― E.B. White

On Aug 21, 2016, at 1:38 AM, carol collier via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]> wrote:

blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px 
#715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white 
!important; }  There is a cohousing community in Denver, Arias, that has 8 
affordable units. The regular units are sky high, but the affordable units are 
reasonable. Colorado Springs cohousing development is reasonable, but of course 
this is not metro Denver.

Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

On Saturday, August 20, 2016, 11:57 AM, Nancy Csuti <nancycsuti [at]> 

Thanks for purposefully calling this out. Although I make considerably more 
than $75k I find Denver Boulder cohousing way out of my price range. I recently 
saw one in Denver for $375,000 and I won't even tell you the Boulder prices. 

I've wanted to be part of cohousing for years but as I watch prices go up and 
up its increasing clear to me that the diversity of background and income I 
expected to find is less and less realistic.  And I make a very good salary.  I 
don't know how young people with kids could possibly afford it. 

Nancy in CO. 

> On Aug 20, 2016, at 11:14, Angela Steiert <angie.steiert [at]> 
> wrote:
> I think it is safe to say that unless a community has subsidized a unit or
> gotten section 8 housing approval, that most co-housing communities prices
> put their members in a higher income bracket.  $230,000 & $250,000 is a lot
> of money.  Someone would have to make at least $75,000 a year to pay that
> mortgage and less than 15% of American's make that much money.  Therefore
> only the top 15% of American's  are able to participate in a cohousing
> community at those prices, which makes it a somewhat elitist entity.  I
> live in a cohousing community and I did not pay that much money, but I was
> quite shocked to see the majority of prices for communities when I was
> hoping to join one. I am a teacher, and I find it quite sad to think that
> most teacher's, unless they have two incomes in their homes, could not live
> in a cohousing community.  There is really no easy answer to this, as I
> have come to realize that most cohousing communities are private entities,
> and that cohousing is in limited quantity in the US which makes it more
> valuable. I do think we have to acknowledge the reality of cohousing in
> America.  So, there are places out there with more reasonable prices, but
> even those are probably too high for many Americans at the wages they
> currently make.
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