mixed-income neighborhoods

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.  http://www.wshfc.org/conf/presentations/T8CohousingGraceKimMikeMariano.pdf

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).

What does affordable housing look like?

[caption id="attachment_541" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Petaluma Avenue Homes"][/caption] When I was in architecture school at Washington State University, architect Michael Pyatok came to do a lecture on affordable housing and mentioned that he had experienced comments in public hearings that his proposed project "didn't look like affordable housing" - and this was perceived as a bad thing by the commenter.  That's a poor reflection on our society - when design for poor people (the people who have the least means and face the most social inequity) should be inferior.  Luckily that was almost 20 years ago and a lot has changed in the arena of affordable housing.

I'm proud to be a participant in Washington State's affordable housing industry during a period of time when HUD is making significant structural changes through it's Sustainable Communities Initiative.  Finally, the silos of our federal government are being dismantled to recognize the synergies between housing, the environment, and transportation systems.  And the possibility for education and food (nutrition) to be added to that mix is even more revolutionary (for government, not reality).

Washington State is home/host to an amazing annual conference called Housing Washington.  It brings together 700-800 people that work to create and manage affordable housing in the state - bankers, developers, social service providers, housing authorities, attorneys, government entities, and of course a handful of architects. (I'm sure I missed someone in there).  http://www.wshfc.org/conf/

And cohousing can be a part of that solution.  As a board member for the Cohousing Association of the United States, I have been chairing the Affordable Cohousing Task Group.  We are developing/implementing an advocacy plan that will reach out to allied organizations and policy makers to share how cohousing can be a solution to creating healthy mixed-income neighborhoods that provide moderate income families with positive role models for achieving financial independence. 

The photo pictured above is a Petaluma Avenue Homes, a 45 unit cohousing-inspired community developed by Affordable Housing Associates in Sebastapol, CA.  The rental community was designed by McCamant & Durrett Architects - the architects who coined the term cohousing and introduced cohousing to North America after extensively researching it Denmark.  Petaluma Avenue Homes is a great example of how cohousing principles can inform the physical design to be an armature for building community.  It doesn't hurt that the architects convinced the developer to provide funding for a community facilitator to help develop community norms and structure during the first 2 years of occupancy. 

This will be one of many examples Mike and I will share during our presentation tomorrow at the 2010 Housing Washington Conference entitled Affordable Cohousing - Making it Work for Low Income Families.  Please come by and say hi!  To see what other sessions are being offered, visit http://www.wshfc.org/conf/HW2010.Glance.pdf.