Re: Regarding Affordability in Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 06:45:09 -0700 (PDT)
> On Aug 22, 2016, at 9:49 AM, Gayle Alston <galston1954 [at]> wrote:
> This idea around affordability is very near to my heart.  I have hopes of
> converting a 1960's cement block motel into a solo senior cohousing
> property in a small (pop 150) town in rural south Georgia.  My thinking is
> that each person will have a room that is rehabbed with a murphy bed,
> living area, frig/micro/toaster.  Common area will include a home theater
> and cafe and 35 acres of wooded area with a fairly extensive raised bed
> gardening operation.  

This sounds very nice. Check with senior cohousing communities about what you 
will need in the long run.

> I am also considering opening up the front section of
> my nearby (100 yds) home for common area so people can use the kitchen,
> dining room, and den.

This is the only thing that makes me pause. Some communities with members who 
have a different living situation have difficulties with supposed power and 
privilege issues. And it does make it different for you. You could feel out of 
things and be treated like “the owner” even when you are not.

Avoid being the sole developer. Form a group as soon as possible so you aren’t 
the only founder. 

> I would like to make it available to seniors like me... who are happily
> solo but may not have planned so well for retirement so have limited
> monthly incomes.

I repeat, make your cost parameters clear from the outset. Construction costs 
escalate very easily. The list of people who have found themselves priced out 
of cohousing after working with a group for months and years is long.

> I would like to intentionally recruit members who will
> bring different skills for the ongoing development of the property for the
> good of all.

Skills are important. That is your human capital. But it has to be done 
carefully so as not to intimidate prospective cohousers.

After we moved in, I realized how much the skills of the individuals who live 
here makes a difference in how the community develops. We have from the 
beginning, for example, lacked a person who could manage the kitchen. It 
requires both organizational and people skills. While we have a large workshop, 
we are lacking a person who works there often and will also manage the tools 
and clean up. Set some expectations and remind people to pay attention to them.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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