"What is (or isn't) cohousing" revisited.
From: Joani Blank (jeblankhooked.net)
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 01:33:23 -0500
What makes it cohousing for me is that I have use and enjoyment of the
common facilities--especially the kitchen and dining area (and tv that has
cable--mine doesn't)--in ADDITION to my own kitchen, tv, etc. Sure, there
are a lot of things about cohousing that I could enjoy in other kinds of
shared living. Like Marty, I've had experience with many of them. and
they've worked well for me. But there are certain things that clearly set
cohousing (yes, Rob, all three models) aside from other kinds of shared
living. They all fall into the area of adequate privacy. In cohousing, but
not routinely in most other kinds of shared housing, I can: 

1). Clatter around in the kitchen making breakfast at 6:00am or getting
myself a very late night snack, without disturbing others.
2) Pick my nose, run around naked or make love in the living room...or kitchen
3) Turn the music or NPR up louder than housemates might appreciate.
4) Separate my wound-up  child(ren) from the other kids without having to
confine     them to their bedroom(s) or put them to bed. 
5) Get away from the rambunctious kids of others when I've had enough.
5) Have a intimate dinner for two, three, or four in my own home. (Of
course, it's great to have the common house to use for larger events)
6) Furnish and decorate my place (not just my bedroom) any kooky way I want. 

Wow, all this and the wonderful community benefits of cohousing too. I
consider this way of living to be a luxury,  I am grateful that I have the
means to afford it now. I earnestly hope that 10 years from now there will
be thousands of opportunities for people not nearly as affluent as I am to
live in cohousing (as well as in a variety of other kinds of shared living
if those work better for them). I hope that most of you share with me the
desire to see cohousing increasingly be made available to people at all
income levels. 

In truth, I see a much bigger challenge than cost to the rapid acceptance of
cohousing. That is the individualism and, to my way of thinking, poverty of
spirit, that drives most North Americans to isolation in their housing
choices. We've almost defined success by how much privacy (isolation) an
individual or a family can afford. How big a house, how secluded from other
homes, how completely furnished, how unique, how effective the visiual and
sound (and emotional) barriers between my home and yours...

For most of an 20 year residency, my ex and I and our daughter shared our
three bedroom house in a suburb of san francisco with one or more
housemates. We certainly didn't do it to help pay the mortgage (that was
only $225 per month). We did it because we enjoyed shared living, and
because we wanted some kid companionship for our only child. A couple of our
single mom housemates were mortified to "have to" be sharing a house. One
had a boyfriend and a father neither of whom would meet her at our home
because they were so embarrassed that the young woman was reduced to living
in shared housing instead of having a place of her own. 

BTW, Rob, although you have described both N Street and Doyle Street as
retro-fit type projects, Doyle St truly more closely resembled what you've
called the new capital model. This "retrofit" of an industrial building
probably cost as much as new construction and required a lot of new capital.
S'matter of fact, 8 of our 12 units are completely new construction. I think
it is neat that our group was able to use so much of the earlier building,
but it doesn't really match the N-Street model. BTW are there any other
cohousing communities that are comparable to N-Street? Been wondering about
that for a few years. 

I'd be interested in the ideas of other people about what makes (especially
"classic") cohousing different from other forms of shared living. I don't
mean to be divisive by making this inquiry; I value diversity among shared
living communities as much as I value it within any community I would want
to live in. 


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