Re: An alternative to the cohousing development ordeal
From: Pablo Halpern (
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 93 13:17 CST
Robert Hartman writes:
> The point is, if you want community, the only way to get it is to start
> from the beginning.  And the beginning is always a shared vision and a
> shared commitment to the process of making the vision come true.  If
> you hand someone who grew up in this culture a package deal, they
> won't know what to do with it.
> If you build it like a condo, it will be a condo.  You'll get a lot of
> virtual tenants, and if you're lucky, a core group of full
> participants.  If you want community, it takes time and commitment.  I
> wish there were an easy way to get to community without struggle, but
> given the stumbling blocks in our culture, I don't think there is one.

Yes, you hit on much of what I wanted to say.  By analogy, look at how
many countries are having trouble adapting to western-style democracy.
Part of the problem is that, contrary to the United States, they didn't
"grow" their democracies from the ground up, deciding what they want,
and getting a commitment from the country to go forward with it.

The fact that our founding mothers and fathers are no longer citizens of
the U.S.  is not pertainent to the success of the system.  The
democratic culture that they created remains (I am well aware of
deficiencies in U.S.  democracy.  That is not my point -- no flames,
please!).  Similarly, the fact that the founders of a cohousing
community will eventually move out (or die out) does not change the fact
that having resident founders is key to the success of a cohousing
culture.  As new people come in they are attacted to and aculturated in
the cooperative culture.  This would not happen if someone just built it
and sold it.  Architecture by itself does not create a community.

Just to keep the record straight, I want to clarify that there is still
room for developers in cohousing.  All I am saying is that I do not
believe that a developer can build a housing complex, sell the houses,
and have that be a true community, no matter how "tuned-in" that
developer may be.  Although I hope the development of cohousing will get
easier in the future, I think there will always be the need for some
sweat and tears on the part of the founding residents.

A closing thought on appropriate use of developers to build cohousing:

1) To buy the land and/or take other financial risk.  Warning: he/she
   that takes the risk has the control.  Beware of power struggles.
   Some developers will work on a fee basis, instead of for a percentage

2) To manage the development phase and build the thing.  I.e.  the
   developer is used as a combination of development consultant and


3) As a development consultant.  New View hired a development consultant
   that is not a developer, but we could have hired a different
   candidate, one who is a developer.

4) As a contractor.  Again, the fact that the contractor is also a
   developer is besides the point.  You can hire a general contractor
   that is not a developer.
Only in case 1 is the developer really being used as a developer.  In
New View, the members have taken all of the financial risk, so we are
our own developers, regardless of the consultants and contractors we
hire.  It is the willingness of developers to work with groups and take
risk on behalf of a group (for a profit or fee, of course), that has
been hard to find but which should get easier as cohousing becomes more


Pablo Halpern                          phalpern [at]
(508) 435-5274

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