Re: cohousing vision
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 08:12:27 -0700 (PDT)
On 8 Jul 2011, at 2:07 AM, Ann Maria Bell wrote:

> So long as cohousing communities are based on home-ownership they will be
> "middle class" by definition.

Which definition are you using? Many working class people own their own homes.

> Here at Arboretum Cohousing 100% of our homes
> are owner-occupied. [snip] At its highest, the home ownership rate in the US
> was about 60%. That means that 40% of the population is eliminated from the
> pool of potential cohousers from the start, including the poor & most young
> adults.

"Eliminated" in what way? Home ownership entails home maintenance and repair, 
so a person has to have enough time and energy for that. And the cost of the 
home has to be low enough to leave funds available for repairs — something too 
many homeowners forget. They budget only for the mortgage payments and 

Houses are expensive to build but since rental units do exist and people do 
rent them, the question arises why aren't there any low cost condos that would 
match the cost of small, basic rental units. Possibly because they don't sell 
and condominiums have to have a resident base of people with the time, 
education (self or family history) to maintain real estate. I don't know if it 
has been tried.

Some people do choose not to own homes. I know very wealthy people in New York 
City who say it is foolish and a waste of money. Real estate is a bad 

For very low income people, the risks of ownership are also too great. There is 
no cushion to cover disasters. Renters can just move on.

In cohousing, the movement is just too small to absorb people who can't manage 
risk. At last calculation only about 1600 people live in cohousing in the US. 
Not sure if those figures include Canada. Even at 3,000 it would be less than 
one urban housing project. That is a very small number to make any economic 
difference in terms of ability to raise funds and get government subsidies of 
any size.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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