More “epidemic of loneliness”

Another article on the “epidemic of loneliness,” this one focused on the U.K.  In Britain and the U.S., about a third of people over 65 live alone, increasing the risk of social isolation.

Blackpool, England, has developed The Silver Line Helpline to give seniors a place to call and be assured of a patient, friendly ear. It gets 1500 calls a day.

There’s an interesting comment from John T. Cacioppo, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, who calls loneliness “an aversive signal,” like thirst or hunger — in other words, a feeling of loneliness may be a useful warning sign, alerting you to a need for social interaction.

“Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger,” he said.

Why has cohousing been so slow to catch on?

Courtney E. Martin has lived in cohousing for three years and sees it as the solution to a whole host of problems, but it’s a solution that has problems of its own.

Martin is a believer in the benefits of cohousing. Although cohousing communities vary greatly — some are multi-generational, for example, while others focus on seniors; some are religiously inspired, others are secular — she notes:

most groups hold in common a belief that a high quality of life is achieved not through self-sufficiency, but through a village mentality.

So why hasn’t the movement had greater impact? In an article for the New York Times, Martin cites lack of awareness and financing as two factors limiting the spread of cohousing.

She’s right, of course, but I would argue that a third factor is far greater. It’s the flip side of the quote highlighted above. It’s the cultural assumption that independence or self-sufficiency are virtues of such enormous importance that the interdependence of “a village mentality” is something to be avoided, or perhaps even ashamed of.

Awareness and financial barriers can be overcome with a little persistence. Changing our mindset takes longer.

What is an “equity co-op?”

Finally found a good, clear description of the corporate form known as equity co-op, courtesy of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

I have not previously felt the need to thank MPAC for anything, but I’m grateful for this.

An equity co-operative is a housing development that is collectively financed by its members.  In equity co-operatives, the residents (i.e., members) contribute equity (i.e., money) in exchange for shares.  As a shareholder, the resident does not own the real estate, but owns a share of the legal entity of the co-operative corporation. The co-operative corporation owns the real estate.

In exchange for their investment, residents are granted the right to occupy a housing unit and use the common amenities. Each member also receives an occupancy agreement, which sets out the rules and outlines the rights and obligations of the residents.  In addition, each resident contributes to the mortgage and maintenance costs (equally or proportionately, as set out in the corporation’s bylaws) through a monthly housing charge.

What sets co-operatives apart from other types of housing is its democratic nature. Co-operatives operate on a “one member, one vote” system, which ensures that all members have an equal say in how the co-op is run and managed.

When a resident decides to leave the co-operatives, they are entitled to sell their shares and to receive at least their initial equity and perhaps some part, or all, of the appreciated value of their shares. This depends on the approach taken by the co-operative.  With market rate financing, the share price is allowed to rise on the open market and shareholders may sell their shares at whatever price the market will bear. With limited equity financing, the co-operative bylaws dictate the pricing of shares when sold.  By capping the resale price of the shares, affordability is maintained for future residents.

This is taken from a longer explanation of MPAC’s Assessment Procedure for the Valuation of Equity Co-operative Housing Projects.


She built it. Will they come?

A Toronto woman, Carol Buss, has an idea about sharing her home with some congenial roommates in an arrangement that’s somewhere between co-housing and a standard landlord-tenant relationship.

She’s conducted an extensive renovation with the thought of renting two rooms to people who would become friends and share the rest of the house with her.

It’s a nice idea and I certainly wish her luck. I must confess, though, I was taken aback when I got to this paragraph:

Upstairs, two furnished bedrooms at the front of the house each have their own bathrooms. Ms. Buss deliberately didn’t incorporate sitting areas because she doesn’t want housemates to spend all of their time in their rooms.

We certainly expect to spend a lot of time in common space. That’s one reason we’ve opted for the greater intimacy of a shared home, rather than the separate residences that make up traditional cohousing arrangements.

But our view is that private space is also important. Everyone should have a place to go and be comfortable and secure when they just need to be alone.

And in our conception, decisions about the nature of the private space — with or without a separate sitting room, for example — will be made by the people who intend to occupy that space.

Ms. Buss designed the space the way she wanted (fair enough, it’s her house) and now is looking for people who want to live in it. We’re looking for people who’ll work together with us to design a space we all want to share.

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