|Sustainable, Low-cost Cohousing||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)|
|Date: Mon, 4 May 2020 13:19:22 -0700 (PDT)|
(I’m still finding it strange that the pandemic has brought so many things to a halt that would seemingly not stop, like sharing on email. I thought it was more temporary than it is turning out to be, but I’m slowly getting back into the flow of things.) I agree with Brian that the largest hurdle for low cost housing is the system—zoning, financing, capitalist values, etc. The system is designed to support biases against those who are more financially insecure and live in multi-household buildings. But there is strong movement against that all across the United States. The McMansion with all it’s huge green lawn separating it from the street and the strangers next door has not brought happiness. Commuting, consumes hours of each day. Two incomes are required to support the mansion and the matching lifestyle. The perils of raising children in a two-income family are becoming obvious. No one is at home to shop and cook dinner or to get the furnace fixed. The cultural institutions are miles away in the city. Another commute. So after generations in the suburbs people are realizing the value of greater density and greater variety. The primary driver toward smaller and low cost housing, however, is the changing values and needs of the rapidly increasing population of people over age 65, and particularly over 85 when over 20% need some help with daily life. If households ever needed 5 bedrooms and huge entertainment areas, they don’t when the adults pass into elderhood at ~70. Smaller and easier to maintain housing allows greater freedom to travel and to write those books that have been on hold for 50 years. To put all those photos into a family history for the grandchildren. The economic and quality-of-life benefits of keeping elders close by have become obvious and zoning laws are changing. After the pandemic even more people will be thinking ahead to build lives that are not dependent on two income streams either or both of which can suddenly and unexpectedly disappear. The need for economic security and control are more immediate and tangible. For low-cost cohousing this is an opportunity. The reason I set up the SustainableCohousing [at] groups.io list and website was so people who were committed to low cost cohousing could research and plan without the seductive pressure to do what is easier, to conform to the norm. In her webcast on the Coho-US website, Katie McCamant who has perhaps the longest and deepest experience with cohousing, confirms that all groups start with wanting to have affordable, income diverse communities. But over the process of development, the desire to find a location close to the city if not in it and to have all the green features that mark them as climate change leaders overcomes affordable. Low cost is not even mentioned. Even if the initial group came together out of a need to escape subsidized housing, those who can afford to finance market rate housing will join. At first the middle class is welcomed because they bring the money, expertise, and business contacts the group needs. But as altruistic as the middle class joiners are, their assumptions and expectations along with the biases of the system overpower the initial purpose. Cohousing communities today look like ideal villages: bright and shiny, no cars, lots of gardens, walking paths, play areas, etc. But for almost two decades it was the norm that banks refused to make construction loans to cohousing groups. The people who could build without loans were those who could afford to finance construction themselves. It was the only way to build. In the 1990s Cohousing-L became the place to learn how to form, build, live in, and maintain a cohousing community, particularly in areas where there were no other communities. It was where anyone in any time-zone or geographic location could find out which banks had given loans for cohousing, which green features were worth having or were a rip-off, and how to (maybe) keep costs down. Why you needed to hire a project director if you could find one. How to convince future neighbors that you weren’t a cult. How to reason with zoning boards—to even understand zoning. How to suffer through households leaving because they were priced out. How to resolve seemingly impossible conflicts. Good cohousing practices. What consensus means. Low cost cohousing needs the same focus or it will go the way of all housing — toward the norm. Sustainable Cohousing is focused on low-cost housing. Housing that low-income households can afford, perhaps with great effort, but still can afford. Discussions will be limited to housing that costs under 50% of the median market rate. Since 50% of the population falls below the median income, this is a large population. They aren’t homeless but not housing secure. They currently have no options except for subsidized or substandard housing which rarely leads to either strong neighborhoods or financial independence—for them or their children. Low-income people join Cohousing-L and explain what they need and what they could bring to a community. They have often been persistent over years. But they weren’t able to attract others with the same focus and eventually gave up. I think we need the congregation of people working together with a narrow focus to work against the norm. I’m hoping that Sustainable Cohousing will not compete with Cohousing-L—this still the place to find out how cohousing communities function, how to do marketing, etc. But it hasn’t met the need for low-cost cohousing. So please do join that list if you want to focus on truly low-cost housing. It is still quiet with only a few members but it is growing. To join send a blank email to: sustainablecohousing+subscribe [at] groups.io Sharon ——— Sharon Villines http://sustainablecohousing.org sustainablecohousing [at] groups.io
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