Re: affordable housing
From: Lynne MARKELL (lmarkellrogers.com)
Date: Sat, 4 Jan 2020 10:59:46 -0800 (PST)
Once again a thoughtful response to this very interesting discussion.
Yes, there is a lot of "sweat  equity" that goes into cohousing and I have 
callouses in my brain from this work. It is hard work learning how to build 
community and a building at the same time, when most of us have only owned 
individual homes.

I would recommend to the people who want do a sweat equity project that
 they realize that they will be doing both mental and maybe, physical work.
Suggestions:
 Do use consultants and advisors who have been through cohousing development 
and social housing development.
Consider a "partnership" with a credible group/ organization that can help open 
up doors for financial assistance. It would be helpful if they could provide a 
space to meet as you will be in a lot of meetings.
Be open and real with your local community about what you are trying to do. You 
may be amazed at who comes forward to help. Your self-help approach will draw 
in local people and businesses that you may not know at the moment.

I speak from experience as a community developer who has worked with low income 
people on a variety of projects and recently on my own cohousing project in 
Ottawa.

Lynne Markell, 
Lmarkell [at] rogers.com
(613) 842-5222



> On Jan 3, 2020, at 1:36 PM, R Philip Dowds alt addr via Cohousing-L 
> <cohousing-l [at] cohousing.org> wrote:
> 
> I agree with Sharon that significant income disparities within a cohousing 
> community can create tension between those who can afford and want better, 
> and those who can barely afford the minimum.  But one of the points of 
> cohousing is that one can and does learn how to compromise constructively 
> with neighbors of very different means, political and religious beliefs, 
> lifestyle preferences and so on.  As one of my neighbors at Cornerstone puts 
> it, “If you want diversity, get ready for conflict.”  So, I’m quite yet ready 
> to buy into a vision of economically segregated cohousing as the optimum way 
> of dealing with household financial differences.
> 
> But I would like to broaden our perspective of sweat equity:  It’s not just 
> about heavy lifting and floating drywall compound.  Most cohousing 
> developments happen chiefly due to astonishingly high levels of sweat equity 
> contributed during the development process  — probably three years at the 
> shortest; more typically four or five years; and sometimes worse.  During 
> that time, a morphing and somewhat uncertain assembly of volunteers puts in 
> many hours a week  learning to do, and doing, jobs for which they’ve not been 
> trained: Hunting for land, fund-raising and budgeting, negotiating options 
> and purchases, architectural programming and design review, seeking permits, 
> marketing and membership drives, selecting and mobilizing contractors, and on 
> and on.
> 
> These, of course, are the customary tasks and activities of professional real 
> estate developers.  These tasks are expensive and risky — which is why 
> developers expect high monetary returns on their investments of time and 
> cash.  Because the founders of cohousing are also, at least in part, the 
> sweat equity developers, one thing they have a shot at getting (in addition 
> to a community of friends) is housing maybe 5% to 15% lower in price than a 
> comparable property produced by for-profit developers.  (On the other hand … 
> if the founders are slow learners, and/or don’t get adequate professional 
> assistance at critical junctures, then the value of their substantial sweat 
> equity can be overwhelmed by general inefficiency.)
> 
> Overall, I am usually bowled over by the time investment the founding members 
> must commit, and are willing to commit, to invent their property and 
> instantiate their dream.  This is sweat equity of the highest order.
> 
> Thanks,
> Philip Dowds
> Cornerstone Cohousing
> Cambridge, MA
> On Jan 3, 2020, 11:38 AM -0500, Sharon Villines via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at] cohousing.org>, wrote:
>>> On Jan 2, 2020, at 10:56 AM, Ron Ingram <ingramr88 [at] gmail.com> wrote:
>>> 
>>> None of these workers were paid money.
>>> Zero dollars were given to electricians, plumbers, roofers, inspectors,
>>> etc. to be honest, we didn't have any money. None of us. But we pulled
>>> together and got it done. We valued sweat equity.
>> 
>> Thank you for taking time to write such a thoughtful and balanced account of 
>> the way things are. When you describe how the small town built their church, 
>> it reminds me of the forming-a-cohousing-group stage. Most have more income 
>> that those in your small town but the need and the desire are the same. 
>> Communities are fully involved in doing as much as they can themselves. It 
>> isn’t always apparent because it’s less visible but the Yankee-do’s are hard 
>> at work. One reason developers and banks refused to work with cohousing 
>> groups in the first 20-30 years is not just because the banks thought 
>> cohousers were weird but because the cohousers had no idea how they were 
>> going to pay for it and actually had no idea how much it would cost. They 
>> were just going to do it.
>> 
>> Renting is a step in the process of building a secure foundation for living. 
>> People need a place to live now, not when they have saved enough money — if 
>> you ever can save enough to own while renting. Many of us elders also rented 
>> for a large part of our lives. We didn’t have the money either. Unless you 
>> had parents who could give or loan you the downpayment, it wasn’t possible.
>> 
>> But here we are now with many people who want to live in cohousing not being 
>> able to afford to, and many people who already live in cohousing, not having 
>> or not willing to have the money to provide them with housing that is 
>> affordable for them. Affordable for them means forget the 80% of market rate.
>> 
>> I’m dubious about the plans to have a few low income units mixed in with 
>> market rate units. I’ve witnessed a group that was started by a city worker 
>> who was living in subsidized housing and wanted a home so she could adopt a 
>> child. “I need more than one room.” But when she start organizing the group, 
>> middle class professionals who already owned market rate houses joined. Very 
>> quickly the goal became building market rate housing that would support 
>> low-income housing. She became very frustrated and felt her idea had been 
>> taken away from her. It’s very hard when you live from one paycheck to 
>> another to explain to those who live well that the expense of building a 
>> common house, for example, is above your means, and that you don’t want to 
>> live in a situation with constant pressure to pay higher monthly fees 
>> because someone wants to upgrade faucets. It doesn’t matter that the new 
>> faucets are pretty and force people to use less water, you can’t afford 
>> them. And you don’t want someone buying them for you — day after day. The 
>> pressure can be enormous.
>> 
>> This is why I think low income cohousing will happen when a group of low 
>> income households comes together to build housing affordable by low-income 
>> households. And insists on equality. That nothing will be done that can’t be 
>> afforded by at least 60% or 90% of the members. If there are people who want 
>> to help with initial financing that it be done as a loan or outright gift, 
>> not in a way that creates a two income level community with the smaller 
>> piece being low-income.
>> 
>> What I can offer is to design and host a website and an email discussion 
>> group for those who are interested in giving sweat equity to build 
>> low-income cohousing. I can also offer policing to keep the plans from 
>> escalating to soaring heights of “affordable” defined as 80% of market rate 
>> in the area. And online research.
>> 
>> I’m sure there are many other people on the list who can offer skills and 
>> information without compromising the efforts of the group to build housing 
>> they can afford.
>> 
>> Sharon
>> ----
>> Sharon Villines
>> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
>> http://www.takomavillage.org
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