Older Women in Cohousing [WINC] is creating a new model – the Middle Women Housing Fund – to enable women with insufficient assets to take part in the WINC cohousing community. These ‘middle women’ have some assets – but too much to qualify for social housing and too little to buy into the WINC community. Without assistance, they will whittle away these assets in the private rental market and in a few years be eligible for social housing – only to face a ten year wait, where they may well become homeless. We want women of all means to have the opportunity to live together in cohousing.
With assistance from a financial strategist, we are creating a unit trust where we can combine philanthropic contributions with social impact investment funds to make a pool for shared equity. The Middle Women Housing Fund will buy shares in middle women’s homes, via a tenants-in-common mechanism, to enable them to live in WINC as an equal member of the community. When a house is sold, the proportionate value of the sale will come back to the unit holders. Social investors may choose to reinvest or to receive their investment and its gains. The philanthropic component of the fund, managed by WINC, will be reinvested in the Middle Women Housing Fund in perpetuity. The structure will enable future middle women to be a part of the WINC cohousing community. The model and legal documents created for the Middle Women Housing Fund will be shared without charge to other developing communities.
We are trying to create and fund a financial model – the Middle Women Housing Fund – to enable women of modest assets (middle women) to purchase a small home in WINC to provide housing security and promote wellbeing in older age. The initial amount needed to enable 9 middle women to have homes at WINC is $1.9m. We will know we have achieved this outcome when the Middle Women Housing Fund has reached that funding goal of $1.9m and when settlement is completed for the shared equity arrangements for the 9 homes. The final step will be to document the model, its progress and its accomplishments and share that with other housing communities. The overall outcome to achieve will be a fully established community at WINC – Older Women in Cohousing - that includes social housing, middle women housing, and fully owned housing.
We are documenting the progress of creating the Middle Women Housing Fund within WINC, and we are also participating in research projects with RMIT and the University of Melbourne around the social and sustainability aspects of the WINC community. We have begun sharing the model for the Middle Women Housing Fund via online media and online housing conferences and through our community housing provider partner, Women’s Property Initiatives. We are committed to full documentation of the outcomes for the community, for the middle women involved, and for donors and investors in the Fund. In addition to the independent research projects, we have four Ph.D. researchers among our membership and expect to be able to provide in-house a substantial report of the process and results.