Re: Affordable Housing: Lack of Scale, Not Building Costs
From: Jonathan Kallay (
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2016 10:41:56 -0700 (PDT)
I have to admit that the anti-corporation theme here made me chuckle given 
earlier comments about cohousing only drawing from a pool (to paraphrase) of 
far-lefties who never watch Game of Thrones...  Your point about the interests 
of developers hits on a separate potential obstacle to scale that's worth 
thinking about. As far as condo developers go, I would think that there would 
be some clear positives to selling an entire development at once to an 
organized group of buyers. On the seller's side the transactional cost and risk 
would be lower. Similarly, for rental housing I think it would have to work as 
a lease to the entire cohousing group--so it would be more like leasing out a 
block of commercial space. That, too, could have advantages in terms of 
mitigating the developer's management costs and vacancy risk. In either case 
the problem appears to me to be one of a lack of an appreciable market due to 
the difficulty of getting intentional community groups together.
Regarding the bit of collective bargaining, I intended to be very specific 
about the kind of employer whose interests might be aligned with intentional 
communities for their workers. The tech industry is one in which, at least for 
now, there is enormous competition for labor (hence the need to import it) and 
other means of labor atomization are readily available--such as complex 
management hierarchies and very high premiums paid to the workers deemed most 
productive. In this labor market the main labor concerns are, I believe, 
gaining a competitive recruitment edge and ensuring their workers' productivity 
is maximized. The potential alignment of interests around intentional community 
is, I think, around the ability of a strong domestic support network to 
eliminate many common obstacles to productivity--lack of emergency childcare, 
having to care for aging parents, etc.
> To Jonathan's thoughts - my first thought on reading the Amazon
> example was that Amazon would emphatically not want to build
> intentional communities for their employees. The community they form
> might encourage them to try to unionize. Any form of housing
> established by large, for-profit companies would have to atomize the
> people who live there so they can't collectively bargain. This would
> seem to go for condo developers too, so their residents can't band
> together. So large for-profit corporations seem to be infertile ground
> for cohousing or community building.
> Your thought on scarcity, however, seems right on target. The number
> of burning souls is probably very low indeed. Is the 500 Communities
> program an attempt to get around the fact that burning souls are in
> limited supply? I think Katie has developed it.
> I know that in general I heard about cohousing in 2001 and rejected it
> as an idea. With the prices of housing being quoted to me, I didn't
> think I could ever afford it. It took my wife and one of our best
> friends seeing a flyer and dragging me to a meeting 11 years to pry my
> mind open again slightly. We are still very concerned that we will be
> priced out, though at this point I think we're just on the right side
> of that affordability line.
> John Richmond
> Richmond Cohousing (VA - not named after me!)

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