Re: Affordable (Co)housing
From: Diana Carroll (
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2021 18:06:29 -0700 (PDT)
Ann, yes, those are things I think about too. I think owning an affordable
unit has some clear wins over renting, as I said, but only compared to
*renting*, not compared to other models of ownership that provide the
additional benefits you are talking about.

Putting aside cohousing, and the awesomeness of getting to be MY neighbor,
if I were advising someone who had the opportunity to buy a restricted unit
like ours vs some comparable property that isn't restricted...if it was at
all feasible, I'd likely suggest they buy the regular property even if it's
a stretch at the start.

but, especially here in MA with our insanely high property values, that's
more than a small stretch for many people.

I love the idea of some sort of wealth-building mechanism, even if it's
modest, built into the model.

Regarding this comment: "If there is NO profit in the house they are
selling … can they afford to buy in the place they are going if they don’t
have the cushion of that resale profit?"

They still get some cushion. They will get back all the equity they have
built up, meaning their downpayment and the amount they have paid down the
mortgage. If they started with 5% down (that's what our program requires)
and lived there for several years, maybe they could leave with 15% or more
back in cash.  That would help them have the 5% down for another similar
property, or plenty for first/last/security if they go back to renting. So
it isn't a total loss.

I don't know if this is true in other affordable housing situations, but
here, if you make capital improvements such as finishing a basement or
putting on a deck, you can add those to the price you ask, so you can get
back some sweat equity, too.


On Mon, Apr 19, 2021 at 8:53 PM Ann Zabaldo <zabaldo [at]> wrote:

> Diana — I like and agree w/ all that you say about how profit is not
> necessarily the only or even the primary benefit of living in a permanently
> affordable unit in Mosaic Commons.
> I’m always of two minds regarding permanently affordable housing.  In
> addition to the benefits you mentioned, Diana, another advantage is that
> the municipality doesn’t have to keep ginning up financing to keep building
> replacement affordable units if the units are allowed to be sold at market
> rates.  Defeats the purpose of an affordable housing program.
> On the other hand … a owning a house is one of the main ways people gain
> wealth in our society.  So it seems cutting off people from that wealth
> building process is unfair by restricting access to the pathway.  Another
> consideration is that people may need to move.  If there is NO profit in
> the house they are selling … can they afford to buy in the place they are
> going if they don’t have the cushion of that resale profit?  Of course, you
> can make the argument that an affordable mortgage frees up other money so
> the affordable homeowner can save money — they are not stretched to the
> limit in their personal finances if they have a reduced mortgage (of course
> there are exceptions all around.  It’s terribly hard to save money in
> certain ).
> In your case in MA, you say people can borrow against the house.  Now,
> that’s visionary.  That could mean money to learn a new skill, send their
> kids to college, go into business — any of a number of things using this
> feature could build wealth.
> So many models … so hard to know which ones work best.  My fave is
> requiring people to live in the affordable home for 7+ years to prevent
> flipping.  The only compensation received at this time is what you paid for
> the unit plus any improvements.  After 7+ years there is a upward sliding
> scale in which you receive a very small “profit" on the house for the
> number of years you live in it.  This is all to maintain stability in the
> community — the owner gets a little “profit” and staying where you are
> becomes desirable but when you have to leave you have a little cushion and
> a little recognition that simply living in your home benefited you.
> Really liking this thread.  Thanks to all!
> Best —
> Ann Zabaldo
> Takoma Village Cohousing
> Washington, DC
> Ex. Dir. & Mbr. Board of Directors
> Mid Atlantic Cohousing
> Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
> Falls Church, VA
> 202.546.4654
> When Isaac Newton stayed home to avoid the 1665 plague, he discovered the
> Laws of Gravity, Optics, and he invented Calculus
> NOTE:  I’m switching back to using zabaldo [at]  Many 
> apologies!
> > On Apr 19, 2021, at 8:01 PM, Diana Carroll <dianaecarroll [at]>
> wrote:
> >
> > Sharon notes: "But it sounds like they are not owners. If they can’t sell
> > at the price that is considered “affordable” at the time they sell, there
> > is little advantage over renting, except that they can live in your
> > community."
> >
> > We have a similar model for our affordable units here in Mosaic Commons
> --
> > the price on resale is set according to a formula, so you can't really
> make
> > a profit, so it doesn't count as an investment the way standard real
> estate
> > does.
> >
> > I wouldn't say, though, that there's no advantage over renting. There are
> > pluses and minus. A big plus is that it never goes away. No one gets to
> > kick you out to convert your apartment to a condo. No one will raise your
> > rent as the neighborhood gentrifies.  (The association fees may go up,
> but
> > you get a vote in that. And here at Mosaic, the association fees are
> > subsidized as well.) You can choose what you want to do in the house --
> > painting, knocking out walls, whatever.  You can borrow against it (take
> a
> > second mortgage).  You can pass it to your children/beneficiaries. It's
> > protected against bankruptcy (at least in MA, not sure about other
> states.)
> > It's way harder legally to foreclose on a mortgage than to evict a
> tenant.
> > OWN it, and there are advantages to owning things rather
> > than renting them.
> >
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