RE: Cohousing, Communes, Community--Not for Profit! Please
From: Pablo Halpern (
Date: Wed, 25 May 94 09:31 CDT
> From: Rob Sandelin <robsan [at]>

> Stuart, you say
> >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.
> Isn't this exactly what is going to happen to current existing 
> cohousing groups 20-30 years from now when all us founders are moved 
> out or dead?


A group's vision and culture do not die just because the founders die (or 
leave).  I have expounded on this before, so I'll keep it brief.

Unless everybody moves out at once, the processes and traditions of a 
community are passed on from existing members to new members.  Changes occur 
over time, but the spirit continues.  If you have any doubts about that, 
look at the tradition of a school like Harvard University.  Harvard is over 
350 years old and very few of the founders are still alive :-).  Yet the 
tradition of academic rigour remains and there are people who will 
enthusiastically defend against any challages to that tradition.  The fact 
that Harvard feels different from, say, Antioch College has a lot to do with 
the particular visions held by the founders of each school and the 
commitment each had to realizing that vision.

The visionary committment of the founders of a cohousing community make it 
possible for new members to join without putting in the same blood, sweat 
and tears.  It is much easier to become just another cook in the common-meal 
cooking rotation than to take a community of relative strangers and organize 
a common meal.  A new member can join the community with only a vague sense 
of what cooperative living means but, given a properly established 
cooperative culture, can become part of a real community and can eventually 
be one of the people passing on that culture to the next new member.

The problem with developers creating "cohousing" is that of establishing the 
cooperative culture.  As Stuart Staniford-Chen has already said, strangers 
moving into such a development are at the very beginning of the cohousing 
process and may fail to truly develop a community.  When potential members 
approach our group, we let them know about the hard work expected of them in 
the process of developing the community.  Will the first residents of a 
developer-created "cohousing community" be told the same thing?

Disclaimer: Although many developers are slimy, I don't have a problem with 
the use of developers in general.  I just think a group should gell *before* 
moving in or, at least, be truly committed to creating community at the time 
they move in to a development.

- Pablo

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

New View Neighborhood Development, Acton, MA

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