RE: Limits to CoHousing
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 94 18:10 CDT
biow [at] cs.UMD.EDU Wrote a rant.

>I think there's another point to be made, which is that this particular
>problem should never have fallen within the scope of cohousing at all,
>any more than a hundred other possibly contentious issues that are
>otherwise covered by international, national, state, and local laws.

Here I go about values again.  I disagree with your main point.  
Cohousing is not just architecture or housing development, it's 
community.  Within the scope of creating community you set your ideals 
and values and then attract people who filter to those ideals and 
values.  One of the main types of filters are the "not allowed here 
things".  These should be referenced early in the process as a vision 
statement, which clearly defines what the core group seeks.  If what 
new comers seek doesn't match the vision, they can check the 
negotiation level of the vision, look elsewhere, or start their own community.

The vision statement is the core values that a group of people commit 
to, or at least are willing to tolerate.  If non-violence is a core 
value, then instruments of violence such as guns would obviously not be 
welcome.  The sad thing about having a group "break up" over such 
things is that the primary issue should work up to the core value set 
and if it doesn't fit, then you have room to compromise. However, if 
the issue fits a core value  it should have little compromise, or the 
core value should be changed, although this is not easy to do unless 
the framers of the core values are willing to do so.

 What is dumb is having a group break up over one issue and have 
everyone give up.  Many times, groups can reform and move ahead after 
the smoke clears, hopefully wise enough to set down their core, 
non-negotiable values in writing.  I have seen this happen where one 
group fragments into two separate groups, each aligning with their own 
vision and this works out fine.  As a matter of fact that is how I got 
into Sharingwood. I had joined a group which it turned out wanted a 
much different direction than I wanted to go.  I made some effort to 
move the group towards a compromise, that didn't work, so I said thanks 
for the experience, and joined another group, being wise enough to 
carefully check out their vision and other such details before 
committing any serious money.

The mistake I have seen repeated over and over is that cohousing groups 
form without setting down what their vision is in any concrete form and 
then discover, too late, that half the group doesn't beleive what the 
other half does.  If you have tolerant, cooperative folks you can 
survive this by compromising, but it will be hard, especially if the 
issue revolves around a core value. It can also waste an enourmous 
amount of meeting time, especially if the group is larger than a dozen 
people.  Save yourself a lot of grief if you start up a cohousing 
group, set your vision down as the first step and think about and 
communicate what you want the community to be to every one who joins.  
This will save a lot of your time in the future.

 My personal experience has taught me  it's not possible to have 
community without shared values. Part of what makes people commit to a 
cohousing venture revolves, at some level, around a shared value of 
cooperative living.  I think if you built a cohousing community that 
didn't  have any  group values you would have a really hard time making 
it into anything but a housing development.

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Cohousing

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