Re: affordability/ Habitat possible
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2001 14:49:01 -0600 (MDT)

I want to respond that despite the Texas study, cohousing/Habitat 
collaboration can work. Here in Port Townsend Washington, HH has already 
completed 4 houses in town, and on Sunday we had a joyful double 
ground-breaking for their next two houses, to be built simultaneously at 
RoseWind Cohousing. 

I note that, at least around here, "really low income people" don't 
qualify for Habitat. In 1999, in our area, to qualify, a family of 2 
(single mom of one, for example) needed to show a "reliable source of 
income" in the range $7700-11,600; family of four (couple with two kids, 
or mom with three kids) would need $13,300-$15,500. 

I imagine the numbers are a percentage relative to the average income in 
the region. Earnings and cost of living are decidedly lower in this 
semi-rural/small-town area than elsewhere. As a single mom, I could 
easily live fairly well on $10,000 a year here. 

But the Habitat point is to address the "in-between" folks who DO have 
jobs and some organization to their lives, but who could not afford to 
have a house. Buying even a small house here costs about $80,000 for 
something very unexceptional. The lowest income people here usually end 
up in trailers. 

Also a Habitat home recipient needs to put in about 500 hours of work 
themself on Habitat projects, besides having the means to pay back a 
mortgage of $45,000 or so. So they have to be a fairly active 
participant, and that can also be someone who can actively participate in 
other things too.

In RoseWind Cohousing's contract with Habitat, we included the proviso 
that the recipients would need to CHOOSE cohousing, with the option of a 
regular single-family house instead.  And among the applicants, a 
wonderful young couple chose us. And then we had in the contract that we 
would front the second family, provided that Habitat found them to 
qualify by the usual criteria. In this case, a single mom had been 
hovering around RoseWind for years, but with no money to buy in or build. 
Now we are finally seeing the start of the building, and we'll probably 
pitch in a bunch ourselves (16 households already live on site, and we've 
gotten used to volunteering during the last year of common-house 
construction). The families are delighted. They have come to potlucks and 
meetings and realize that they are not only getting a House, but a whole 
Neighborhood, and that it's a great plus. 

Gale Greenleaf wrote:
>master's thesis at the University of Texas that surveyed a group of Habitat
>for Humanity folks and a work-in-progress coho group in Austin around 1994.
>The conclusion seemed to be that for most really low-income folks the idea
>of living in a group, going to meetings, having to make decisions with other
>people, and all the other mechanisms of cohousing were kind of appalling -
>the exact opposite of what they wanted.
Most people in the general public, lower income or not, do not prefer 
cohousing to the American dream picket fence bit. So we shouldn't be 
surprised at the survey results. But don't be afraid to give it a try. 
Every local Habitat chapter is unique, and every area has a unique 
population. You don't need to find a hundred low income people who want 
to be in your cohousing, just a handful. May you have the success we 
experienced on Sunday!

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA
Where our common house grand opening is April 14! 
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