Cooperative Living

by Dillon Kato

Bill Carey is continuing to work on bringing a new option for senior housing to Missoula. He thinks the rest of the state could benefit from the idea as well.

The former Missoula county commissioner has organized a group of interested professionals from a variety of housing-related industries in an attempt to build a senior cooperative housing project in the city.

The cooperative would serve as a great housing solution for older individuals looking for something
between home ownership and a nursing home, Carey said.

The U.S. Census Bureau is projecting that by the year 2030, more than 20 percent of the country will be age 65 or older. Specifically in Montana, the AARP is predicting more than a quarter of the state’s residents will be in that age range 15 years from now.

Carey said there are many seniors reaching an age where they want to stay active, but don’t necessarily
want all the hassle, maintenance and upkeep that comes with owning a home.

“I’m in that demographic, at that point where I don’t want to always be mowing the lawn or whatever,” Carey said.

montana 55 inside-tmAlthough senior cooperative housing projects can be established in many different ways, what Carey envisions is that the project will be a not-for-profit organization run by a board of directors, and the residents would own the housing communally.

Every resident would put forward a down payment to buy into the housing, then pay a portion of the overall mortgage that would be shared between everyone who lives there.

Last spring, Carey brought Dennis Johnson, a senior cooperative housing expert from the Twin Cities, to Missoula for a presentation about the possibility of building one in the city.

Costs could be kept low by capping the amount of equity a resident can gain, so when a person moves
out potential new inhabitants would be able to afford to buy in while still allowing retirees to recover their investment, unlike an apartment or retirement community, Carey said.

“They’re protecting their nest egg when they buy into a cooperative,” he said. “I mean why not have
some ownership, why not have some control?”

The group Carey has assembled in Missoula, including a realtor and developer interested in the concept, are now conferring with Johnson to determine how best to proceed.

One of the issues in front of the group is initial funding and financing for the project.

Carey said one solution could be using a special senior housing loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carey said senior cooperative housing projects are far more common in the Midwest, with more than 60 in the Twin Cities-area alone, but the trend hasn’t made its way westward. While he is focusing his efforts in Missoula, Carey said if the benefits of the projects
can be demonstrated to seniors, he thinks other Montana cities will also show interest.

“In Missoula at least, there’s no place to be able to take people and walk them through to show what this could be,” he said. “But it’s such a good idea it’s going to happen someday.”

Joy Earls, a Missoula real estate agent, said she thinks the city is “primed for senior cooperatives.”

Earls had attended the original meeting with Johnson and had written columns in the Missoulian about the possibility of the projects. She said she received positive feedback from seniors in the area who are interested.

“I would say that it’s a specialty area that appeals to a specific kind of person,” she said.

While she knows the project that Carey wants to build would be designed to keep costs low, Earls
said cooperative housing projects could potentially take any form the residents wanted, with different
projects tailored to fit different needs or income levels.

“It could really be whatever would be in the articles of cooperation when it was founded, although the people that I’ve talked to about it have been especially interested in the idea of keeping it affordable,” Earls said.

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  1. September 13, 2016
    I lived in Medford, Oregon, for a few months earlier this year. I met with an intentional housing cooperative/community in Ashland. The community shared responsibility for an organic garden and common grounds which included a kitchen and dining/meeting/entertainment area. I think there were 8 households or so. They had an opening coming up next spring. Now that I am back in Missoula I would like to participate in trying to pursue cooperative housing options in Missoula. Reply

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