Co-Housing: The Latest Trend in Senior Housing is Ripe for Investors

Co-Housing: The Latest Trend in Senior Housing is Ripe for Investors

Perhaps they no longer want to manage the maintenance of a house and yard.

Or they don’t particularly want to live by themselves anymore.

But they don’t need assisted living, and independent living can be pricey.

What’s the solution for retirees who find themselves in this niche?

Senior co-housing communities – developments where groups of condos, apartments or small homes share common living spaces – can solve all these issues. Seniors or couples can enjoy their privacy while sharing gardens, a dining room, a fitness area or a library.

“Senior co-housing fills a significant demand in the marketplace for seniors that no longer want to live on their own, but don’t need assisted living,” said Kevin Vandenboss, broker at Vandenboss Commercial in Lansing, Mich., in an interview with U.S. News & World Report.

There are just 13 senior co-housing communities in the nation right now, with two more being built and another 13 in planning stages, according to the Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US). So the trend is in its early stages. But it has potential as a new opportunity for investors.

“The senior housing community is a niche market,” said Jay Morrison, CEO of the Tulsa Real Estate Fund. That could scare off real estate investors who are less familiar with it. But, he noted, since the playing field is smaller, a motivated investor could more easily penetrate the market.

In 2017, Coho/US created an “Aging in Co-housing” emphasis to inspire and support co-housing for seniors – both in senior-only communities and in those meant for multi-generational housing. The organization’s goals are to provide resources, help create long-term care solutions, support research and affect public policy.

Charles Durrett remembers the distress he felt when he had to place his mother in an assisted-living facility.

“At 72 years old and determinedly, but detrimentally, living alone, she could no longer competently care for herself,” he writes in The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living (New Society Publishers, 2009). “Her children, doing their best, had reached the limits of their competency. Institutionalized assisted care, and eventually nursing care, were her only options… My mother moved into the most agreeable facility we could find and afford. In the meantime, we continued to search for institutional care for her that was not an institution. But what we found was a business system designed to care for people, not with people.”

Durrett’s dismay was especially ironic considering his position in life – he is a principal with McCamant & Durrett Architects, a Nevada City, Calif., company that specializes in co-housing neighborhood communities. They feature 11 such communities in their website gallery, many of which are designed specifically for seniors.

One of their projects, Oakcreek Community in Stillwater, Okla., was completed in 2012 and includes 24 cottage-style one- and two-bedroom homes on 75 acres near downtown Stillwater. (Some would call the homes small; Oakcreek prefers the term “right-sized.”) The 3,700-square-foot common house was created by renovating and doubling the size of the original family house on the site; it includes a communal dining room, activity rooms, a workshop, and guest rooms for overnight visitors. Photographs of the neighborhood show houses with painted wrap-around porches, wide sidewalks, open green area and gathering spaces.

“We are a group of women and men who share a common vision of aging-in-place with grace and dignity and who value living in community,” says the Oakcreek website. “Some of us are retired and some are still working. We include teachers, medical professionals, golfers, bicyclists, and more. Our members now range in age from early 60s to early 90s … Many studies have shown that interdependence of ‘community’ enables people to live independently longer, with healthier and more active social lives.”