RE: Cohousing, Communes, Community--Not for Profit! Please
From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (stuartslandau.ucdavis.edu)
Date: Tue, 24 May 94 17:46 CDT
Rob says:

> The important task then is to make sure the image sold is the 
> image of people working together, cooperatively owning and the 
> benefits thereof.  This is much the message that has come out in the 
> popular press articles I have seen in World news weekly, Delicious 
> magazine, 

It's very important to distinguish between the image that is used to 
sell something and the item that is actually for sale.  *If* mainstream 
developers do pick up cohousing and try to sell it (which certainly 
hasn't happened yet, thanks be), you can be quite sure that the TV ads 
will be full of pictures of communities with lots of happy kids playing 
in the common areas, while their parents sit around in groups chatting 
about their day.  What you can not be nearly so confident of is that the 
developments which they are trying to sell people lots in will actually 
function that way.  *Certainly* they will appeal to people's need for 
community.  But they may not fill that need.

You don't get to have a happy stable family with beautiful kids because 
the breakfast cereal you eat showed you that picture in the ads.

You don't get to have sex with gorgeous members of the opposite gender 
because you drink a certain beer or eat a certain brand of chocolate - 
despite what the ads tell you.

Ads lie!  Developers are not a notably honest set of people, even by the 
standards of commerce.  If they take it up on their own account, you may 
be sure that while the ads will look great, the results will be far less 
satisfactory.  Build community yourself, or do without.

This is not to say that you have to make new buildings for the purpose 
-- I'd be the last to claim that since I live in a community made out of 
old houses that happened to be lying around on this piece of land.  But 
even if you start with the buildings already, there is a whole long 
process of deciding what your community is and how it functions which 
cannot be circumvented.

The kind of nightmare I envisage is a speculative developer builds a 
"cohousing" community, complete with common house, community kitchen, 
appropriately small houses.  Maybe he even sets up bylaws dictating that 
the decision making procedure be by consensus.  Everybody who buys a 
house in the development owns part of the CH.  The developer advertises 
the wonders of cohousing in the local media and manages to sell all the 
lots to interested people who don't know each other.  Everybody moves 
in.

I would argue at this point, those people are at the beginning of the 
process of making a cohousing community, not at the end of it.  It may 
be that they will succeed in building a community there, but there is a 
good chance they won't; many cohousing groups fail or split, and these 
people will probably have the added disadvantage of starting under false 
pretences.  But even if it doesn't work, the houses will still be there 
and somebody will live in them, and it will still be XYZ Cohousing 
because that's what the developer called it.   The common house will get 
used twice a year for weddings, and most of the residents will know each 
other poorly or not at all.

This is the kind of thing we don't need, but I claim this is what you 
are most likely to get from mainstream commercial developers (if they 
ever take any interest at all).

Stuart.
N-Street Cohousing.

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