Re: Cohousing for chemically sensitive people?
From: Pablo Halpern (
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 94 10:40 CDT
> From: Bob Morrison <morrison [at]>
>   I recently talked with someone who would like to establish a community 
> people with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). I won't go into detail
> what MCS is, except that these people are highly sensitive to chemicals, 
> etc. in food, water, and the environment. They need to live in housing th
> specially designed and built to be free of these contaminants.
>   This person got the idea of establishing one or more communities a few
> months ago, and indirectly heard about cohousing from me. This community
> doesn't have to be cohousing, but she is seriously considering it. The si
> would probably be in Worcester County, Mass. It would have to be in a non
> urban area free from smog and industrial pollution. 

I think there are a couple of options here.

First, in any single-family house, special construction can be used to 
prevent chemical contamination. This is true within a cohousing community 
or outside of one.

To get economies of scale, an entire development or portion of a 
development can be built to accomodate the needs of people with MCS. 
However, I would warn against building a community entirely composed of 
people with MCS. MCS is a disability and, like many disabilities, it is 
very easy for society to gettoize the people with that disability. People 
with MCS do not necessarily have anything else in common, so I don't 
consider MCS to be a good community-building attribute. A looser community, 
where people are not expected to cooperate closely might be more 
appropriate than cohousing for this reason. People who live in 
elderly/disability housing give mixed reports about their situation. Some 
love being in a place designed specifically for their needs. Others (or 
sometimes the same people) bemoan the fact that their neighbors are not the 
people they would prefer to live with.

As for the cost of building houses for people with MCS, it is conceivable 
that you could get insurance or government subsidies on the basis of 
medical need. A doctor's diagnosis would be required. Medicade/Medicare and 
the Social Security Administration might be places to look. I don't know 
much else about it.

- Pablo

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

New View Neighborhood Development, Acton, MA

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