re:the politics of co-housing
From: Pablo Halpern (
Date: Fri, 18 Mar 94 10:36 CST
Andre' Velino Writes
> In message "the politics of co-housing", Wm writes
> >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.
> Great! That sounds like New Age Suburbs! When can I move in? :-).

I don't know how sarcastic that last remark is intended to be, but it
pretty well expresses my problem with the developer approach.  Lately,
"New Age" has become jargon for plastic-coated spirituality.  I'm afraid
that too much reliance on developers could lead to plastic-coated
cohousing.  In my experience, New View is likely to be successful
because of the community we built in the process of finding land,
getting permits, etc..  The shared experience is vital in establishing
trust between the members.  I don't think all communities must go
through the same amount of hell that we did, but I think there is a line
beyond which your chance of creating a real community diminish.

There are companies cropping up for the purpose of developing cohousing.
I think many of these companies are on the right track.  The key, as I
see it, is that any group working with these companies must truly form a
community in the process.  That probably means participating at a level
far greater than your normal developer-buyer relationship.  The less
participitory, the lower your chances of forming a real community.
Remember, communities form all over the place, not just out of
intentional efforts, so even the most distant developer could luck out
and build a complex that becomes cohousing.  The issue here is whether
the *desire* to build community is achieved *deliberately* in a majority
of cases.

One last thing about participation.  For better or for worse, I think
risk is a key component of participation.  If people do not risk
something, there is less basis on which members can build trust.  Also,
in housing development, risk equals control, so beware a developer that
carries to much of the risk.


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

New View Neighborhood Development, Acton, MA

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