Re: Is Cohousing Cheap(er)?
From: oz (
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2013 09:40:39 -0800 (PST)
A challenge with your refined question is that many who live in cohousing
would not have purchased small homes in multi-family housing had they not
"discovered" cohousing. Delving into this does not, however, contradict the
previous point that Cohousing can be more OR less expensive than
"comparables" - it depends on exactly how you and your community live.

When my wife and I purchased our 1,100 sq ft Songaia home, my peers lived
in 2,500 to 5,000 sq ft single-family homes. Most of our current cohousing
neighbors moved from "large" (size is also relative) single-family homes to
purchase Songaia duplexes (800 to 1,800 sq ft).

In 2000, our home's price ($170k, the same as its cost) included several
features not available in single-family homes. Specifically, 10.6 acres of
shared property, including organic garden, orchards, forest, and meadow,
shared use of a 4,000 sq ft common house (with all the amenities), larger
old metal barn with a large greenhouse.

Features of the new single-family homes (priced at $300-$600K) in our area
- which are not available at Songaia include large driveways, three-car
garages, grand entries to rarely used living rooms, and plenty of on-street
parking - and, of course, some extra rooms.

Oh yeah, the social environment is also just a wee bit different.

Of course this Apples-to-Oranges comparison is of two very different forms
of houses, but for our suburban coho community, this is probably a more
meaningful comparison than the price of a condo in the area - the closest
condo is about a mile away.

The next issue of Communities (subscribe here):

has a number of in depth articles which deal with affordability of
community living.

In addition to the one that Wendy Willibanks Wiesner and I wrote, there are
articles by Chuck Durrett and Betsy Morris, both of whom have made major
contributions to the thinking about affordable cohousing for many years. I
daresay that Philip might change his mind if he reads some of these

On Mon, Dec 31, 2012 at 11:25 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]>wrote:

> OK, to refine the question:  Will you and your family live more cheaply in
> a development organized as cohousing, than you would in a similar housing
> unit in the same neighborhood, but not organized as cohousing?  My answer
> remains: You will live different, maybe even better, but don't expect
> cheaper.
> I'll make one significant concession:  AAA reports the averaged annual
> cost of owning and operating a passenger vehicle is now in the $9K to  $11K
> range.  If cohousing maintains a shared vehicle or two, and access to that
> vehicle allows your family to drop from 3 cars to 2, or 2 cars to 1 -- or
> even 1 car to none -- now you're saving interesting money.  What I've seen
> so far in cohousing is that the legal and political hurdles are often high
> for a communally owned car -- but coho-ers are more likely than regular
> folk to find ways of privately sharing a vehicle and its costs among two or
> three households.
> But you still can't share your healthcare or your daughter's four years at
> college.
> Sent from my iPad
> On Dec 31, 2012, at 11:46 AM, oz <oz [at]> wrote:
> >
> > First, an appeal to authority: I co-authored a few articles on
> > affordability for the next issue of Communities magazine (alas, only one
> > was accepted). I've also visited about 30 communities.
> >
> > ...
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