Re: Pocket Neighborhood [was: affordable housing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 4 Jan 2020 08:05:17 -0800 (PST)
> On Jan 4, 2020, at 9:32 AM, Ty Albright <tmalbright [at]>

> Note that I did edit the first line which originally read "adorable"
> to "affordable".
> I strongly suspect this was an erroneous spellcheck "correction”.

Remember when Rob Sandlin used to be changed to Rob Dandelion?

> I will share that in the real estate industry "affordable" means
> "government subsidized".  So I prefer to use the term "low
> cost".

Low cost is good. Low income is less specific. One of the problems with 
subsidized housing is the sometimes confusing income formulas. 

Is there, or do you have, and criterion for “low cost”? The affordable standard 
of 80% of market rate in the geographic area is totally out of reach for many 
people. The criteria of Low Income set by HUD as 50% of the income for a 
geographic area is closer to setting a standard, but I think it is better to 
refer to the housing. 

Some people who are capable of achieving a higher income or even with a higher 
income prefer to live a low cost life and either do humanitarian work or donate 
to causes. 

> The reason alternative home construction solutions are not more
> prevalent is because

> 1). Municipalities are reluctant to approve
> anything not " tried and true" because of the risk of change.  

I think this might be changing as the approval of small houses or apartment add 
ons in back yards are increasingly common. More than one person at Takoma 
Village has been able to purchase a unit by having a roommate.

> 2). The home mortgage industry is entrenched on how it underwrites and is
> focused on high volume cookie cutter loans and will not take the time
> or risk to loan to innovative home solutions.

One reason for having a Community Bank and research projects that show the 
dependable financial strength of cohousing and the steady demand. During the 
housing crisis beginning in 2008 we had our highest rate of rented units but 
when I calculated our number of units for sale with the number in the 
neighborhood, ours was not higher than the market. Recently our Resales and 
Rental Pod has taken over the process of orientation to build a list of people 
who understand cohousing and want units, and of showing units. It doesn’t 
always happen this fast but it is amazing how often the process of open house 
on Sunday, bids in by Wednesday, and offers accepted by Friday actually works. 
Part of that is a prepped list of people waiting.

Do we have those statistics anywhere?

> It will Federal Government legislation to remedy this.

When we tried to save a historic theater, we were able to find a bank that had 
a VP designated to work with non-profits of all sizes. He gave us very valuable 
information as well as referring us to real estate agents, lawyers, and 
architects who worked pro bono for non-profits.

Finding a bank/banker who is interested in low-cost housing would be of value 
to cohousers all over the country. In the 1990s a cohouser made a spreadsheet 
of all the banks that had financed cohousing communities that was very helpful 
to communities looking for loans. If the bank couldn’t work across state lines, 
they often had branches in many states.

> I am in the process of building a 8 unit pocket neighborhood in rural 
> Oklahoma [snip] Each home has connected  "back yard" space that all combined 
> together forms community shared space - [snip] controlled vis deed 
> restrictions and easements [snip] as far as the small town municipality and 
> mortgage lender is concerned, these  are just basic cookie cutter 2 story 3Br 
> / 3Bth homes.

After following up on the very intelligent post this week from Ron, I have 
decided to set up a website and a discussion list for low-cost cohousing in 
order to bring people and information together in one place. The goal is to 
provide a central place of contact, collect information, and post stories such 
as yours and hers. 

I sometimes receive messages off list from this person or that who is designing 
low-cost prefab housing units, but I haven’t keep track of them. Since real 
estate ventures and the design of unique living units takes years, I usually 
can’t find them later to check on progress.

Webpages can be set up for forming groups in various areas. People do move to 
join cohousing communities.

The obvious domain names are taken at the moment so I’m still thinking.

> This is an experiment.... but I am confident it will work and provide
> a good housing solution for people who seek low cost living in a rural
> location (0.4 miles from the entrance of a national park).

Please keep us updated. Often people post early in the process but then we 
never hear what happened.

For example, I would like to hear from the woman I met at the cohousing 
conference in Boulder who had joined 3-4 forming groups that fell apart or that 
she had to leave to take jobs elsewhere. On the tour of homes and 3 days of our 
conversations, she realized that she could afford to purchase one of the small, 
usually stucco, rental apartment complexes in California and convert it to 
cohousing and possibly a condominium. These complexes of a few units were built 
in the 40s and 50s with small efficiently designed units. As people moved out 
she could rent units to people who wanted cohousing.

Pulling the ideas together and staying focused on well defined low cost limits, 
I think would help this move forward. It’s the most I can do, at any rate.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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