As any policymaker, practitioner or developer will admit, expanding and preserving affordable homeownership or rental opportunities for working families has its challenges. Just as local governments face barriers to expanding the supply of affordable housing, so too do some developers that want to build with affordability in mind, but lack the necessary resources. So it should be no surprise that a colleague and I recently learned about similar challenges that exist within the cohousing movement.
Cohousing is a housing model that offers individuals and families of all ages a community-based living situation, often likened to a close-knit neighborhood. Typically, cohousing developments constitute private homes (single-family detached, condos, townhomes, etc.) owned by the occupant, with shared ownership of common facilities, such as a community kitchen, playroom, laundry room, library, or garden. Though sharing facilities may reduce the costs of housing for some families, the cost of buying a home in a cohousing community is usually similar to comparable homes nearby and may still be too costly for lower-income households.
Through a conversation with board members of the Cohousing Association of the United States (CoHo/US), we were pleased to discover how applicable some of our affordability “tools” are for cohousing communities seeking to provide affordable units for their members. In particular, one tool -- community land trusts—might work very well in tandem with cohousing developments currently underway (according to CoHo/US staff, over 200 cohousing communities are in the pipeline).