In an earlier post I mentioned a retirement housing option that is growing in popularity: cohousing. While I knew of its existence I had no idea of the interest in this subject. Comments on that post and private e-mails tell me that cohousing is catching on among all sorts of folks who want a combination of private living space with shared areas like courtyards and a common house which contains a kitchen, a large dining room, club rooms, plus recreational and laundry facilities.
Cohousing is a rather new concept in the U.S. but building rapidly. At last count 38 states have some form of cohousing community either open and operating or under construction. I was surprised to learn that are four such developments already in Arizona, with a fifth forming in the Phoenix area.
There are different types of cohousing communities: some for mixed ages, others for families with young children. Some are designed for strictly for seniors. There are organizations that provide all the information and details you would need if something like this interests you.
Since I know virtually nothing about the pros and cons, or the good and bad of cohousing, I'll let this post be a resource for you. Here are a series of links to sites that will tell you more about this housing choice:
*Milagro Cohousing Development in Tucson, AZ
*Cohousing Is Not Just for Boomer Hippies
*Seniors At Home In Cohousing
*Elder Cohousing: A New Choice For Retirement - or Sooner
Last month I received a report on the future of housing for seniors developed by The Center for Housing Policy, which is the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference (NHC). The report confirms what we probably all suspected: the need for housing for seniors will far outstrip the availability within the next 30-40 years, making the development of alternative housing, like cohousing, all that more important.
Here are some of the more important findings:
*As the U.S. population ages, the share of the population with severe housing cost burdens will likely rise. Older adults are more likely than younger adults to spend more than half their income on housing. In fact, one in four households 85+ spend at least half their income on housing.
*As the overall population ages, the numbers of the most vulnerable will grow as well — people with a disability, women living alone (who account for 40 percent of 65+ women) and minorities. Meanwhile, the Great Recession has eaten into the reserves of many older households, reducing home equity and retirement accounts.
*Even some older homeowners without mortgages face serious housing challenges. While 65+ homeowners are more likely than younger households to have paid off their mortgages, many of these homeowners nevertheless have high housing cost burdens. The incomes of older adults tend to decline with age—as reflected in rising poverty rates. But property taxes, maintenance, and utility costs all tend to rise over time for both older homeowners and renters (as reflected in higher rents). Accumulated savings can help, but these too diminish with age.
*An older population with health issues will drive demand for modified housing and housing with supportive services. Both men and women are living longer, and as a result, more older adults will be living with disabilities. About one quarter of older households aged 65-74 and nearly two thirds of households with a member 85+ include someone with a disability.
*The demand for renovations and retrofits to accommodate disabilities and for moves to housing with supportive services will likely rise. Currently, about one in five 85+ adults are in community housing or a long-term care facility—more than 10 times the share of adults aged 65 to 74. The supply of these types of housing is unlikely to keep pace with burgeoning demand. Many suburban communities, home to half of older adults, continue to limit multifamily or group housing.
*Equally important are policies to expand housing choices for older adults. By adopting more flexible zoning policies, communities can help foster a diverse range of housing types including accessory dwelling units (i.e., granny flats), high-density rental developments, assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities, and congregate housing. Subsidies will be needed to help ensure that older adults with low and moderate incomes have access to affordable choices. The report also recommends experimenting with more cohousing efforts that promote “active neighboring” and/or allow professional caregivers to live among residents.
As the United Voice for Housing, the nonprofit National Housing Conference (NHC) has been dedicated to helping ensure safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America since 1931. For more information visit their web site: NHC.org
Knowing all this, is cohousing something you might consider? It seems like an interesting way to hold expenses down while still enjoying an active social environment.
If you or someone you know lives in a cohousing situation, your feedback would be very much appreciated. Tell us about what prompted your decision to move to this type of community. What do you enjoy the most, and what are the problems in this type of arrangement? What if you don't like some of your dining mates?
Housing is a critical issue. The more information we have, the better.