What are the challenges to implementing cohousing?
|Cohousing's first challenge is simply a lack of public awareness. The general public is largely unaware of cohousing or the advantages it offers for aging in place. For those who are familiar with the concept, a related challenge is that there are very few existing cohousing communities in the U.S., and groups who would like to form new ones must overcome significant barriers. Only one-third of the groups who begin the planning process see their community become a ||Other Resources:|
- This section is based on an AARP fact sheet on cohousing prepared by the Center for Housing Policy. Click here to download the fact sheet in PDF form.
reality for a variety of reasons, including: finding a sufficient amount
of affordable land; securing city permits; and attracting enough residents who want to create the same kind of community.
Because housing costs are comparable to units in surrounding communities, an additional challenge is that cohousing may not be an affordable option for an older adult with limited assets or income. Without a government subsidy, the savings generated by shared meals and transportation do not sufficiently lower costs for those of truly limited means. However, ElderSpirit includes 16 income-restricted rental units and Silver sage has six permanently affordable units, demonstrating that where there is an identified community need and available government support, cohousing can be a viable alternative for low-income older adults.What can be done to expand the supply of senior cohousing?
In order to increase awareness of cohousing and its aging in place advantages, government agencies and nonprofit housing developers who interact with older adults in the provision of shelter could raise awareness of cohousing and help interested groups understand the concept's benefits as they relate to aging, and provide start-up technical assistance in developing a cohousing plan.
Additionally, groups interested in forming a cohousing community would be more likely to succeed if funding for predevelopment activities were more readily available. Hiring an architect, as well as legal, financial, and project management professionals, can be costly endeavors that can hinder a prospective community from becoming a reality.  States and localities interested in supporting cohousing may consider creating or extending existing pre-development loan programs to cover prospective cohousing developments.
Nascent cohousing groups may also encounter difficulties securing the capital they require to fund construction or to subsidize units for those who need financial assistance. States and localities that
|Solutions in Action|
|The ElderSpirit Community at Trailview in Abingdon, VA, has a total of 29 units. Thirteen are owner-occupied, and 16 are subsidized rental homes available to low- and moderate-income households. ElderSpirit demonstrates that where there is an identified community need and available government support, cohousing can be a viable alternative for low-income older adults.|
For more on this community, visit www.elderspirit.net.
choose to support cohousing as a viable model for some of their
older adults could develop programs to help prospective cohousing groups overcome these obstacles.
|Go back to learn about other housing models geared to older adults|
 "Rethinking the Commune." 2006. By Barry Yeoman. AARP The Magazine 49(2A).
 Interview with Charles Durrett, The Cohousing Company, July 2009.
The views expressed herein are for information, debate and discussion, and do not necessarily represent official policies of AARP.