Re: the politics of co-housing
From: Lynne Farnum (
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 94 12:52 CST
On what basis do you make the assumption that "having
values" conflicts with making decisions by consensus?
It's quite the opposite: people who share some basic
values will have a much better chance of succeeding
with consensus.  People whose values are polar opposites
will probably not succeed.

You are right that people in the cohousing movement seem
to share some common values.  This should not be surprising --
what would be the point of doing all the work of building
an intentional community, if you had nothing in common with
the other residents?  It would be no different than buying
a regular house in the suburbs and getting your neighbors
by chance.  

Cohousing is NOT just a bunch of people building houses
with common land, shared resources, and a few meals.  That
would be a condo development with a kitchen.  Cohousing 
IS a bunch of people with a commitment to the importance of
community, who want more connection with their neighbors than
standard American housing provides, who would like an 
"extended family" of friends of all ages, for both adults 
and children.

One of the values shared by all the cohousing groups I 
know of is a desire relate to other people in a cooperative
rather than adversarial way.  Getting what I want does not
have to mean depriving someone else; it is usually possible
to come to a solution that satisfies both.  Since joining a
cohousing group a year ago, I have been deeply impressed by
how well consensus can work, even on difficult issues.  It
does require that the participants respect each other's
opinions and feelings, and that they care more about a
mutually satisfactory outcome than they do about "winning".

Other values typically espoused by cohousers include 
placing a very high importance on the family (where a family
is not necessarily a husband, wife, and 2.4 children);
a desire to put down deep roots in a neighborhood and in
the surrounding town; and diversity of age, race/ethnic
background, religion, income, and sexual orientation in
the community.

I think it unlikely that a group which articulated these
values at its founding would later find them in conflict
with its wishes.  If turnover gradually resulted in a
membership that sought to undermine family relationships,
favor transience over commitment to the community, and
exclude people for their race or religion, I would say 
that the cohousing community had effectively been erased.

If sharing values makes cohousing "political" by your
definition, then I guess it is.  Without values it would
be pointless.

Lynne Farnum
Rose Tree Cohousing

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