Bruce Katz

Affordable Cohousing

[caption id="attachment_675" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Petaluma Avenue Homes"][/caption] A couple of weeks ago, Mike and I had the pleasure of presenting at the 2010 Housing Washington Conference.  This is an annual conference for the 700-800 movers and shakers in Washington State's affordable housing industry.  The keynote speakers* all spoke about the need for a new paradigm in home ownership - that perhaps it's not possible/sustainable for everyone to aspire to that particular American Dream.   As a homeowner who was caught in the unfortunate bubble burst (trying to sell as the bottom of the housing market started to fall out 3 years ago), it's understandable why top financial forecasters might say this.  But for those who have not yet attained that American Dream so experience the trials/tribulations it can bring, it seems unfair for someone else to pull up the drawbridge before they can even step foot into their castle.

So I don't know if it was this new attitude, or the nation's desire to return to a new "normal" where community is at the heart of what matters...but our presentation on Affordable Cohousing garnered a lot of attention compared to last year when I presented the same topic at the 2009 Housing Washington conference in Spokane.

Mike gave an overview of cohousing and I shared about 6 examples of built communities that were able to incorporate affordable units into their projects using inclusionary zoning, incentive zoning, HUD HOME funds, and Community Land Trusts.  One featured project that received a significant amount of interested was an affordable rental community- Petaluma Avenue Homes, developed by Affordable Housing Associates in Sebastapol, CA.  This 45-unit community is rented to individuals of 30-60% AMI and was designed by McCamant & Durrett Architects - the pioneers of Cohousing who coined the term and adapted/introduced the concept to North America. 

[caption id="attachment_676" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Petaluma Ave Homes Common House"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_680" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Silver Sage Senior Cohousing, Boulder, CO"][/caption]

Other examples were:

Elderspirit - a senior cohousing project in Abingdon, VA with 16 affordable rental units and 13 home ownership units;

Pacifica in Carrboro, NC with 7 affordable units made possible through incentive zoning and purchased to low income families via a community land trust;

Frog Song in Cotati, CA made possible by inclusionary zoning; and

Silver Sage - a senior cohousing community in Boulder, CA that is part of a larger master planned redevelopment called Holiday Park.

Our presentation is available for download from the conference website.

We welcome your questions and comments on the presentation.  And if you know of additional examples, would love to hear about those as well.

*Keynote speakers were Nicolas Retsinas (Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University) and Bruce Katz (Brookings Institute).