RE: cooperative ventures?
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Mon, 23 May 94 16:32 CDT
 Jim Slotta  wrote:

>One question that I've had for some time concerns the possibility of
>cooperative economic ventures which draw on the power of shared land,
>resources, time, vision, etc.

I know of no cohousing group which goes to the length you describe. 
However almost every commune, many cooperatives, land trusts and other 
such intentional communities do this as a way of life.  The level of 
economic cooperation is one way I've seen people distinguish cohousing 
from other intentional community types.  In cohousing each household is 
economically independent. In a commune, each household  is economically 

This of course doesn't mean it can't happen and maybe it will and does 
and I just haven't heard about it.  Around the Puget Sound cohousing 
groups the expectation is that you are economically independent enough 
to pay your share of the total cost of the enterprise.  In some cases, 
members may loan funds to one another or to the organization in times 
of need or crisis but the organization as a whole does not typically 
support individual members financially, at least in any large scale  
way such as paying mortgages or groceries.

One of the barriers to making this happen is the weird notions that 
cohousing is not about economic dependence. In the promotional 
literature about cohousing the focus is on private ownership of homes 
and cooperative ownership of other facilities.  I have seen statements 
that say: This is not a commune, in order to distinguish it from that 
type of community. I think people who would be really interested in 
promoting cooperative business within cohousing, especially if it 
involved the creation and funding for individual shares of the  
community development  might have a hard time.  For one thing cohousing 
has relied largely on commercial banks which don't support such things 
very much, if at all.  Bank mortgages for capalization  pretty much 
demand middle class economic credentials if you want to play with them. 
 Banks also give intense scrutiny to independent business because of 
the high default rates of that group.

Energy drain is another problem. Large scale cooperative ventures 
require full commitment to that venture. Making a small business work 
well enough to pay a mortgage is a good trick and requires enormous 
energy and talent, even when done cooperatively.  Cooperative business 
effort to fund cohousing development would be a great way to allow low 
income folks to be part of the scene, although I find it hard to 
imagine how you could put enough energy into both a cooperative 
business venture and creating a cohousing community.

I think cohousing can adapt well to doing cooperative run business once 
it is capitalized and built.  Using organizational assets such as land, 
for the profit of a few of the members would raise some issues in my 
group.  We have discussed the use of the commonhouse as a center for a 
commercial daycare which would be run by one of the members.  The 
feelings I have gotten so far is that people support having onsight 
daycare for their own kids, but using the facilities to take care of 
other, non-member kids would not be OK.  That may be just local to my 
own group. If using the commonhouse for a daycare helped pay for it, or 
entirely paid for it it might be looked at differently.

Rob Sandelin
Puget Sound Cohousing Network
Sharingwood Cohousing

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