A LOOK AT COHOUSING: WHY BABY BOOMERS ARE SELF DEVELOPING ALTERNATIVE HOUSING OPTIONS
Matthews, Georgeanne Nabrit
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ABSTRACT An interdependent community with shared amenities and resources, like ‘cohousing’, is one solution to the challenges Baby Boomers face in finding suitable housing options to age in place. Cohousing developments are on the rise in the U.S., more often lead by a committed group of Baby Boomers who seem to be getting around existing public policy hurdles at great emotional and financial costs on the front end of development. This in an indicator that certain barriers exist in the public policy arena that make it difficult to get zoning approval for a cohousing development, and in turn to access traditional financing options to get these projects built. This dissertation looks at why and how Baby Boomers are self-developing their own alternative housing options as they face their retirement years. Over the next 20 years, the Census Bureau anticipates an increased national demand for moderate to middle-income housing posed by the retirement of 80 million Baby Boomers by the year 2031. This paper will highlight: 1) The demographic issue of the rapid growth in the retirement age population; 2) The social considerations that occur with family members living further afield than in previous generations, and therefore leaving the elderly without a built-in network to depend on. In addition, this generation is accustomed to independence and is looking for alternatives that support their ability to remain independent; and 3) The public policy gap highlighting the lack of affordable housing that meets the needs of Baby Boomers, who are ill prepared to shoulder the costs of retirement according to the Social Security Administration. Architects Schreiner and Kephart draw attention to the need for Baby Boomers to have safe, moderately affordable, amenity intensive housing with built-in community and safety nets (2010). The Harvard Journal on Housing (2008) acknowledges the challenge of providing quality housing across a broad income spectrum and points to population shifts indicating a future need for more cost effective, densely clustered housing that is smaller and more sustainable than the typical American dream home. Baby Boomers will be the largest group in this demand shift, accompanied by other groups like single parent headed households, individuals who live alone and Millennials. However, due to the sheer size of the Baby Boomer generation, this group has the potential to be a catalyst for the creation of new housing initiatives. This trend will require changes in land-use zoning for multi-family housing, and the creation of new financial options that support group living. Baby Boomers seem to be investigating various collective living options in order to offset the financial and social challenges that can come with the aging process. The cohousing model will be used as a case study for its claim that it offers luxury amenities, homeownership, community, cultural activities and a built-in social network by design.