Re: affordable housing
From: rphilipdowds (
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2020 05:37:05 -0800 (PST)
Lynne —  Thanks for sharing detail about congregate suites (and, for being 
familiar with that particular design approach).  In my former assisted living 
architectural practice, I had the opportunity to incorporate a congregate suite 
or two into a building which was basically studios and small one bedrooms.  It 
was a little bit of work for both residents and staff to sort out who could 
live with whom — but once compatible “roommates” were established, the suite 
was very popular (at least with those living in it).

A private bathroom for each bedroom is probably ideal, but two people in 
different bedrooms sharing exclusive use of one bathroom can also work.  If you 
reduce the number of kitchens and bathrooms per person, cost falls 
dramatically; and if you generally reapportion the square footage correctly, 
you end up with a shared “living/dining” room that’s actually large enough to 
be useful.

I’m describing a dwelling design model used mostly college dormitories and care 
facilities, but there’s no reason why it can’t work out for economical options 
in cohousing as well.  Best of all, it’s probably code-legal in most 
jurisdictions.  A four bedroom, four bathroom housing unit might attract some 
interest and speculation during public plan review, but few jurisdictions are 
willing to get involved in limiting dwelling unit size, or controlling 
occupancy over time.  Selling it as a cooperative within a condominium facility 
is beyond my legal skills, but it also could be a rental unit managed by the 

Sorry, don’t know of any cohousing that’s doing this — although I’m well aware 
that some coho unit owners will choose, for either economic or social reasons, 
to bring a long-term renter into their (over-sized) home.  Maybe others out 
there have more detail to contribute.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA
On Dec 31, 2019, 12:34 PM -0500, Lynne MARKELL <lmarkell [at]>, 
> Thanks Philip for your perspective.
> You have mentioned another alternative that has not come up in this 
> discussion - congregate suites.
> I think the idea of a group of people collectively owning a suite/apartment/ 
> house provides a way to reduce the cost for each person. Each owner would 
> have their own bedroom and bathroom, and share the kitchen, living room, 
> laundry, etc. They would have their own legal arrangement re ownership and 
> the cohousing group would treat them like regular members. It is really
> "co-living" within cohousing!
> It would work well for singles, family members, or any other combination.
> The cohousing group would design it the unit, based on the interest of their 
> members (perhaps only one per project) and sell it as a unit.
> We considered this for our project and there was some interest. We did not 
> get to the design stage at that time, but were prepared to do a conceptual 
> design, so we could then offer it to people who wanted a cheaper way to live 
> in cohousing.
> In Canada, there is a lot of interest in the Golden Girls housing - 3-5 women 
> sharing a house. This would be the same and marketable within the cohousing 
> concept of community, common house, etc.
> Does anyone know if a group has done this yet?
> Lynne Markell,
> Lmarkell [at]
> (613) 842-5222

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