Re: Affordable Housing vs Low Income Households
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 30 Dec 2019 09:18:07 -0800 (PST)
> On Dec 30, 2019, at 11:02 AM, Brian Bartholomew via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at]> wrote:

> Banning inexpensive houses so that house prices can only rachet up,
> has produced the result that house prices have only racheted up. And
> here we are.
> A house is a durable good which wears out, like an automobile; not an
> investment. There is no way to make most houses increase in value.
> Any appearance to that effect is an illusion created by warping the
> surrounding money flows.

(Long email coming. If you already know this stuff, my feelings won’t be hurt 
if you don’t read it.)

In addition to its other benefits, cohousing is a real estate development 
project that increases both quality of life and real estate values in 
neighborhoods. My unit has increased in market price more than 300% in the last 
20 years. While it is unlikely that I could increase the value 400% without 
adding another floor/room, the value has raised in relation to other 
improvements in the neighborhood. While a home isn’t like the kind of 
investment that you buy and sell the way one buys and sells other investments, 
it is still a huge investment for most households and builds wealth for them. 
Households depend on that value to move to a new home or pay living expenses in 
retirement or both when you are downsizing or whatever. It isn’t all about not 
wanting “poor" people next door.

When we moved here the neighborhood was a middle class historic district, but 
not a very safe neighborhood. Just weeks before we moved in an undercover DEA 
officer was murdered on the corner across from our property. At least one 
member withdrew because she is a writer who often takes long walks at night—not 
safe then. We were advised by neighbors not to take the Metro home after about 
9:00 pm. Once or twice a month gangs from the local high school had fights, 
some involving guns and knives, just across the street. A red pick up truck 
used to drive down the middle of the street and make drug deals with people who 
walked out from the sidewalk. Not unlike an ice cream truck.

We were the first new development in the neighborhood in I don’t know how many 
years. Now there are so many, I can’t count. We have gone from one reasonable 
restaurant to at least 6+ very nice ones. It’s hard to keep count. We even have 
a Starbucks. Whether you like Starbucks or not, you know it doesn’t just open 
in risky markets. 

Because investors, like our developer and us, are willing to invest in 
neighborhoods, neighborhoods become better, safer places to live. Investment 
isn’t inherently bad. I think those of us who are not used to people having 
enough money to just buy that property and see what happens don’t understand 
how important investment is. How much it is required to maintain a community or 
to save it.

A family moved to Takoma Village a few years ago from an intentional community 
in California. They had lived in a community where people had houses, etc., but 
they were unable to sell them when they left. The houses were the property of 
the community and no one could live there with any expectation of profiting 
from it financially. The effect was that they were stuck there. When one 
received a fellowship at a university across the country, they had nothing to 
help with housing — not rental from the house they were living in or an amount 
from a sale to purchase a new home. In their early 60s, their only real option 
was to go back. Their investment was in the community.

Looking at money over a life span reveals some realities that most of us don’t 
understand when we are in early adulthood.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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