Affordability at Jamaica Plain Cohousing

One of the things I am most proud of is the way Jamaica Plain Cohousing has continued to prioritize affordability goals. When we moved in (2005) 14 of our 30 units were sold to 'low and moderate' income families - according to the HUD guidelines on affordability. We accomplished this goal in many ways:
•no customizations of units,
•lower grade finishes in the units to keep prices down (high grade finishes in the common house though),
•a large mix of unit types - more expensive to build but folks had options to buy smaller units they could afford
•we left some projects unfinished for later including building the patio (completed in 2007 I believe) and adding solar panels (completed just last summer).

But the most important mechanism we used to keep a mixed income demographic was our internal affordability assistence fund (AAF). We provided soft-second mortgages to 4 qualifying households. The fund was funded by private member donations and also a $50,000 line item in the development budget earmarked for the AAF. These mortgages were significant amounts and the borrowers had the choice of not paying back until they sold their units - agreeing to pay interest and a percentage of the gain. (Two of the four have paid back in full. All original investors have been paid back and now the community owns and operates the fund.)

Today we still talk about affordability goals constantly. We have an extensive AAF program that includes no doc loans for any reason what-so-ever ($1,000 cap - but effective to help with the quick need that often plagues the low income homeowner).

We do feel the pain of making decisions together because low income folks sometimes prevent the community from spending; we've developed some processes around dealing with this.