Martin Sheehy writes for the Wall Street Journal, "Co-housing isn’t necessarily an economical option. Units at Silver Sage, situated on prime Boulder land, start around $400,000. Six homes were set aside as "affordable" — about $119,000 or $140,000 apiece — for which Colorado residents are most likely to qualify. Applicants currently must have annual income of roughly $35,000 or less to qualify for the $119,000 units and $45,000 or less for the $140,000 units. In Abingdon, Va., where a group of former nuns sparked the formation of ElderSpirit Community, with 29 cluster homes and apartments, prices were kept in the $100,000 range by searching for a bargain-basement land price and winning state grants."
Most intergenerational cohousing builds-out at market rate. When that is true in elder cohousing, it leaves quite a large portion of the senior population unable to afford to live in cohousing.
As with ElderSpirit described above, costs can be kept down by building on lower-priced land. This is accomplished by moving further away from the center of the urban area (possibly into the rural area surrounding a city) or by moving into an area that is less desirable for most of that city’s inhabitants. Since this usually means an area of high crime, the preferable solution for most seniors is to move further out from town.
There is another alternative that might work in the future: modular homes. Modular homes are probably tighter construction than the majority of builders can accomplish and they are also constructed in a dry atmosphere. Unfortunately, energy-efficiency stops there for most modular manufacturers.
It makes no financial sense to save on construction costs, then pay increasingly higher utility bills so passive solar design and energy-efficiency is a must for elder cohousing.
One concept that is being considered for the cohousing communities in Hidden Lake Village in Texas is modular housing with an energy-efficient foundation and a SIP roof–both additions by green-building expert Jim Sargent.
Modular housing has one other advantage. The entire community builds quickly, this allowing savings on interim financing costs.
The availability of grants and subsidies for elder housing is increasing. We will report on that in the future.
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