|the politics of co-housing||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Wm Leler (wmithaca.com)|
|Date: Mon, 14 Mar 94 16:44:30 PST|
I'm curious about something. Most of the cohousing groups (at least the ones posting to this list) seem to share a few other things besides just being in a co-housing group. 1) There is a strong belief in consensus. 2) There is a strong desire to pass on the founding beliefs of the community. This is interesting. Most housing is not done this way, of course. Either you are building or buying a single detached house, so you do not need a group decision-making process (like consensus) to make decisions on things like whether to build fences or how many windows to put in, or you are buying a condo (or moving into an apartment) where some builder made up some rules (about fences, windows, pets, etc.) and then sold the units to people who agreed with this particular set of rules. I have no experience with cohousing, but the way the communities that are discussed on the net seem to operate is they *do* have an implicit set of values, which of course will always be in conflict with the consensus process. After all, who is the keeper of these values? If the group changes over time and the consensus evolves away from the founding values, is this good or bad? (By analogy, in America who gets to decide whether gay families strengthen or destroy "traditional american family values")? The attempt to lock these values into the community (in at least one case forever, by setting up some legal mechanism so that some common land could never be sold) also seems against the consensus process. It reminds me of the long legal battles that Rice University went through to reverse the founder's stipulation that blacks not be allowed to attend. The conflict between consensus and founding beliefs also seems to (perhaps not intentionally) distinguish between people who help found the community and those that join it later. This may be fair, since founding members "paid their dues" by attending so many meetings :-) but it also means that there will be some conflict here. I've seen alot of traffic about how hard it is for a group of people to set up a co-housing community -- the volume of meetings being just one problem. At the risk of being called anti-PC, has anyone considered setting up a cohousing community without this initial consensus process? For example, some developer (a dreaded word, but I'm assuming a a particularly far sighted one) would buy some land, build a co-housing style community, set up some initial rules for it, and then sell units (another dreaded word) to people who want to live in that kind of community. In a way, there is still an aspect of consensus to this, since people will vote for or against the values of the community by whether they buy into it or not. This is no different from what I would face if I want to join an existing co-housing community. I guess what I'm trying to ask is whether co-housing is a housing concept where a bunch of people share some common space, common resources and perhaps a few meals, or if there is a political element to it which involves consensus and the establishment of values. --wm p.s. incidentally, I grew up in a "community" that might have had something in common with co-housing. It was a cul-de-sac in Palo Alto called Lawrence Lane, which was kept 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 oriental (until that became illegal). The houses were all traditional single family dwellings, but there was common land at the end of the block (with a ball field, etc.). There were maybe a dozen houses total, and monthly meetings. The group was cohesive enough that 5 families had babies within a few months of each other so that the children could play together (this included my little sister). I still remember when I realized that my best friend was black.
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