Re: coh for whom
From: Nancy Wight (
Date: Tue, 21 Sep 93 10:40 CDT
> Daniel Reitman writes:
> What strikes me as the problem with cohousing -- and a large section of the
> modern co-op movement -- is that we've lost sight of the social remedy aspect
> of the movement.  By planning cohousing from the ground up, there's an 
> inherent
> expense that may restrict membership to those who already can afford a middle
> class lifestyle.  I think we need to reconsider the self-help aspects of
> Rochdale as at least part of where we want to take the movement.  It's already
> problematic enough that the word "co-op" in some cities is usually prefixed
> with "luxury", when we should, in my opinion, see more affordable co-ops.
> =========================================================================
> As one who has been working on this and thinking about it for 3 1/2 years, 
> now,
> I both agree and disagree.  Getting a cohousing community off the ground is
> tough - one week before our project rose from the ashes of losing the property
> (we moved in two months later!!) I was guessing it would take another 3-5 
> years
> to get into coHousing.  We were LUCKY! And it takes a huge amount of time and
> commitment from people.  Lots of folks, both middle and lower income, blanch
> when they hear about the meetings.  So, that is a big restriction.  

I would go so far as to say that is THE big restriction.  A group can have
all of the money in the world, and without folks who are willing to commit
lots of time and energy, it's not going to happen.  My neglected friends
and family keep asking me, "can this possibly be WORTH it?".  I can only
shrug and say, "I won't know until I actually live there."

>       And the costs of construction or rehab are high (any comments from our 
> Twin
> Cities groups?)  What i see is that most of the people who are attracted to
> Cohousing, here, are somewhat alternative in their approach to life and 
> income,
> and don't have a lot of money.  Middle class, maybe, but not much $.  Some, of
> course, have more than others. Yes,
> there is the Habitat project  in Calcifornia, and a one in Sacramento with 
> more
> affordable units.  It will come.
>       I think Chuck Durrett was right when I heard him say, 3 years ago, that 
> the
> key is to get some cohousing communities built and going and that that will
> help get funding to make them more available to more folks.  He was arguing
> against more housing experiments on low - income folks.  I think we are seeing
> the beginnings of affordable cohousing now.  
>       I don't know a lot about Rochdale and its self-help aspects, but I am 
> very
> reluctant to add anything more to the task of developing cohousing.  I think
> the more you try to do, the more people will get burned out along the way.  
> But
> I'd sure be interested to watch.
> Judy Baxter, Monterey Cohousing Community, Twin Cities Area, Mpls/St.Paul MN
>       (Mococo)                baxter%epivax [at]
> Twin Cities CoHousing Network Voice Mail  930-7580

It's really comforting to hear someone else who's been at this for awhile
say the same thing I've been saying when I get questioned on how come
we're not doing "affordable housing", how come we don't have more diversity,
how come we're not doing more environmentally-friendly design, etc., etc.

Some of the people in our group, like lots of groups, started out with
visions of "saving the world", and then reality (of the cost of land in
this area along with the time involved) set in.  One by one, some
of those ideals had to take a back seat to our main priority, which is
building a cohousing community in 3-5 years (from when we started). We
have so far been able to keep some of them, like designing a passive solar 
heated common house, composting toilets, etc., but Judy is right on about
not adding "anything more to the task of developing cohousing".  
Katie McCamant told us, about 3 1/2 years ago, the same thing that
Chuck told your group, Judy: Just getting cohousing BUILT in this 
country will be an enormous boost to those who come after us.
We will be paving the way for those future communities and making it
easier for them to tackle more and more of the social and environmental
issues we all face in this country.


Nancy Wight                                               (508) 659-4974
New View Neighborhood Development, Acton, MA            wight [at]

  • coh for whom Judy, September 17 1993
    • Re: coh for whom Nancy Wight, September 21 1993

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