The majority rent (I've lived in a few, all of which, including the one I live in now, rented).
I believe the main reasons for this are:
- People who live in rationalist group houses are disproportionately young and live in expensive areas, which makes it hard to buy a house,
- There's a lot of variability in how long people live in rationalist group houses, and
- Figuring out the ownership structure is complicated.
The first point is fairly self-explanatory, but I'll say a bit more about the other two.
There are several sorts of people who choose to live in a rationalist group house:
- People who would rather live in a rationalist group house than live alone or just with a partner/family,
- People who want to live in a rationalist group house until they find a partner and settle down,
- People who thought they wanted to live in a rationalist group house but decided it wasn't for them (often because they find out they're more introverted than they realized or want more control over their living space than a group house offers),
- People who can't afford to live alone so they live in a group house, and given that they need to live with other people, they'd prefer rationalists, and
- People who are moving to or explicitly temporarily living in a particular city (e.g. to study) who want their housing to come with a rationalist-type social circle,
- Partners of rationalists who themselves aren't rationalists, and
- People in the rationalist community who can live in a rationalist house more cheaply or more conveniently than somewhere else (often but not always because a room is temporarily vacant).
Most of these kinds of people aren't going to stick around very long. That's fine; the temporary (a few months to a year) residents of the rationalist group houses I've lived in have generally been positive additions to the house, so I wouldn't want to exclude them.
Because most of the people who might want to live in a rationalist house won't be sticking around that long, it doesn't make sense for everyone to own it. Which brings us to the question of some subset of the residents owning the house.
Last year, a friend and I looked into buying a house together to turn into a group house (where we would rent the rooms out to other residents). Things I learned from that process were (I expect this to vary a lot by geography, and I know very little about New Zealand's housing market):
- It can be hard to find something that matches multiple people's constraints (in terms of price, location, size, features).
- Co-owning a house with someone (other than a spouse) is legally complicated and requires a good contract and a competent lawyer. Especially if there's also a mortgage involved.
- Touring houses is a lot of work.
- Most houses for sale have a lot wrong with them and the permitting process for transforming them to be the way you want is slow and unpredictable.
- Figuring out whether there'd be sufficient interest in a rationalist group house in a particular location is hard.
There were a couple houses that we came close to want to make an offer on (though we still hadn't figured out the legal issues around co-ownership). Then my friend accepted a job offer in another city, which ended that project.
None of this means you shouldn't buy a house for this purpose under the right circumstances. I think those circumstances are:
- Someone in the group has the ability to buy such a house.
- Enough people are interested and have sufficiently legible requirements regarding price, location, size, and amenities.
- The prospective buyer is ok with the house ending up not being a rationalist group house (and either living in themself not as a group house or turning it into a regular rental property).