Talk about moving a mountain … are “Cohousing” and HUD falling in love?

Matchmaker and Cohousing Coach, Raines Cohen,  a Cohousing California regional organizer living at Berkeley Cohousing, dished out the ice cream and hot fudge Tuesday night.  The assembled were celebrating the end of a petition campaign to have HUD treat cohousing condominiums the same as all other condominiums for purposes of certifying a cohousing project for federally backed mortgage insurance.

Cohousing eligible for reverse morgages?

Alice & Raines Celebrate Successful HUD Petition Drive

The specific circumstance involve Raines’s neighbor, Alice Green, who wants to obtain a reverse mortgage.   She, as many other seniors living in condos in the US, wants to  stay in her home in Berkeley Cohousing.  She wants to “age in community.”  The regional field office for HUD declined to fully review her application. The staff did not understand that cohousing has privately owned, fully complete, self sufficient homes with its own kitchen and bathroom.

Raines went to work. He started a petition drive via the online petition service, PEERS, blogged about Alice’s situation on  his blog Aging in Community, and generally began educating and informing anyone he could contact in HUD, its field offices, etc. about cohousing.

Happily, there is a tried and true definition of cohousing  which puts us right in the mainstream of housing:  PRIVATE, fully self-sufficient homes clustered around a central community building we call a Common House.

The misunderstanding with federal officials seemed to stem from the shared resources and facilities aspects of cohousing.  While we do share common facilities such as a hot tub, dining room and kitchen for group meals, gardening space, bike storage, meeting space, library, play areas and so on … each home in cohousing with a condominium legal structure is fully self-sufficient.

While Raines had worked on organizing the campaign for a couple of years, once the petition began circulating it took less than 105 days to gather over 11,500 signatures, arrange a meeting with HUD officials and deliver the petition.
Raines and Alice visited HUD offices yesterday (Tues. 6/10) to deliver the petition and express appreciation and support to the HUD officials who brought about the change, and to learn about HUD’s process. They were joined at the meeting by Within Reach movie creator Amanda Kay and Golden Gate Cohousing’s Sean Culman, and at the party by Alice’s employers at salvage company Urban Ore, who donated airline miles so she could be there, along with members of Takoma Village and nearby Eastern Village cohousing communities.

The petition, plus a breakthrough in which HUD staff shared cohousing materials from the Coho/US national website with condo technical assistance providers, led to movement leader Katie McCamant visiting HUD and helping them see that we’re not just condos — we’re the best condos around:  lower foreclosure rates, deeper reserves, more member participation, etc. All of this means lower risk for lenders and ultimately HUD as lender of last resort. (HUD is being super cautious since the recession started in 2008.)

Cohousing is the BEST investment a lending institution can make … and it’s UP TO US TO MAKE THE CASE.

What Raines, Alice, Katie and others did was to take the initial “defeat” and turn it into an opportunity to educate policy makers about cohousing.  Rather than hiding our light under a bushel, we need to be showing financiers, government agencies, developers, real estate investors, et al what a good, solid investment they can have in cohousing.

“Lots of people insisted this petition was futile,” said Raines. However, Raines and others kept on pushing but doing it in a way that helped allies step up, prompting the change. At the celebration last night Raines said, “It’s important to know when NOT to listen to people who say ‘it can’t be done’.”

Congratulations, Alice, Raines, Katie and CohoUS volunteers who made this milestone possible.

Want to know more about the campaign? Visit:



Thanksgiving in Cohousing

by Ann Zabaldo 22 November 2012

Greetings on this Thanksgiving Day — the quintessential American holiday. I’m Ann Zabaldo, one of the Principal Partners in Cohousing Collabortive, LLC, the sponsor of this blog.  I not only build cohousing communities … I live in one.  (In our business model … you eat your own dog food …) Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday […]

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Philadelphia, PA is Home to Wissahickon Village Cohousing

by Ann Zabaldo 14 September 2012

If all goes well,  in the sweet little neighborhood of Mt. Airy in northwest Philadelphia, lies the future of home of Wissahickon Village Cohousing.  The 10 households who make up the current membership want to build a 32 home green and sustainable community on a property owned by Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners,  a real […]

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A Little Levity for Cohousers Everywhere

by Ann Zabaldo 15 August 2012

Do you sit in cohousing meetings with architects who speak “archi-babel?”  You’re not alone! Grant Snider may be studying to be an orthodontist but that doesn’t stop him from having quite a wry wit about ordinary things.  He is the artist behind the comic poster series Incidental Comics. In his comic  poster on architecture, Snider […]

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The SHIFT is about to hit the fan. (Hurry. Time Limited.)

by Ann Zabaldo 7 August 2012

As if you needed yet another video supporting your belief that community and connectedness are the  two fundamental qualities of life for which people on the planet are yearning. Yet … here it is.  Tom Shadyac’s I Am. Perhaps you already know this documentary by Hollywood  director Shadyac .  Shadyac directed Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor  and […]

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Google+ Hangouts: Video Chats for those Long Distance Cohousing Developments

by Ann Zabaldo 31 July 2012

As is often the case in developing a cohousing community, many times there are households that do not live in the immediate area.  When Takoma Village here in Washington, DC  was in development we had households in Florida, North and South Carolina and … Germany.  Roberts Creek Cohousing in western Canada had households from all […]

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Mid Atlantic Cohousing Hosts 2012 Conference “Sequel” in Washington, DC

by Ann Zabaldo 12 July 2012

Cohousers of all stripes — those living in cohousing, building cohousing or just starting their cohousing journey — are gathering together on Sunday, July 22nd, 2-4 p.m. to hear reports on various workshops by those who attended the conference. This is an opportunity for those who could not attend this highly successful conference to get […]

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New Kids on the Block: Radio Interview with Richmond Cohousing!

by Ann Zabaldo 13 May 2012

  Richmond, Virginia will be the home of a new cohousing community.  Hear what this forming  group is planning for their socially and physically green and sustainable cohousing community. Interviews of Richmond Cohousing group co-founders Adele Maclean and Jana Hayes and Cohousing Collaborative principal Ann Zabaldo will be on air this Wednesday May 16 at […]

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Sweet Story of Gay Marriage, Celebrated in Rocky Hill Cohousing’s Common House

by cohousingworks 10 May 2012

Cohousing communities often serve as a center for progressive and inclusive lifestyles.  This is once again demonstrated in the heartwarming story of Susan Galereave and Kiki Zeldes, two mothers who were recently married by a justice of the peace in the Rocky Hill Common House.   Read the story as it appeared in the New York […]

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Do You Drink a Morning Latte?

by cohousingworks 6 May 2012

m4s0n501 Here is a great little video from the World Wildlife Fund on the carbon footprint of a single latte.  It makes you gag a little bit towards the middle… but there is hope! Rethinking a Latte Published By:  Rebecca Disbrow Cohousing Collaborative, blog editor

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