“Cohousing” & HUD: A Love Story

“Cohousing” & HUD: A Love Story
by Ann Zabaldo on June 12, 2014 via http://www.cohousingblog.com/

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:

http://www.AgingInCommunity.com/help-alice/

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