Re: "What is (or isn't) cohousing" revisited.
From: Shava Nerad (
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 13:42:27 -0500
Joani sez:
> 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. 

This is why our project (currently moribund while one activist graduates
from law school and another (me!) starts her own company) was based on the
coho model.  A few of us are cooperative housing "scarred veterans," and
we see coho models as a perfect compromise between the coop/communal 
living situation, and the isolated nuclear housing of the greater society.

Problems with coop living avoided by coho reflect Joani's advantage list.
        - people with different cleanliness threshholds
                I don't mean people who are total slobs, but the division
                between folks who wash the dishes immediately, and the 
                folks who want to sit and digest first.  Or the people who
                know how to keep a wok seasoned, and the people who want
                to soak it to get the teriyaki sauce off...  Or the 
                people who believe that a bathroom must be totally cleaned
                every 3 days, and the ones who want to wait for a ring in
                the toilet.  Or,...
        - quiet space for work
                one of the major problems I've run into is that "the computer
                room" or "the crafts room" can't be set up so that people
                playing and people working can be segregated.  For those
                of us who work at home, this is a serious problem!
        - contextualization for kid raising
                I like a certain amount of separate authority for parents,
                within the community "village" model.  This is much harder
                when kids have no physical daily context to separate "this
                is how we handle it, no matter how xxx's parents handle it."
        - well defined rules for money
                a source of breakdown for many coops.  What happens when a
                member loses a job?  What about the person who abuses the
                safety net?  If one person eats out a lot, how do you 
                charge a share of food?

Most of us were raised, in this culture, to expect a certain amount of 
autonomy.  In nuclear (or even extended) families, we were imprinted with
ideas about boundaries in terms of all of these issues -- and we believed
(usually) that what we think of as "right" or "normal" on these issues, *is*
"right" or "normal."  

To quote Robert Frost:  "Good fences make good neighbors."  In this case,
it's the boundary conditions that generate the most interest in community.

I believe that defining boundaries is the essence of defining commonalities
and community.  Many coop/communal living situations deny this, with a 
sort of PC orthodoxy that I find un-useful and often obnoxious.

> 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. 

And boundaries help preserve diversity.  It's the "fruit salad" vs. 
"melting pot" model.  I don't want to be totally assimilated into a 
PC community standard.  I want to live with folks who can work together
despite inevitable differences.  As a younger woman, I thought those sorts
of differences could be compromised without alienating the individual 
and harming the sense of community.  I'm a more pragmatic idealist, now.

Hope I get a good chance to test my theories! ;)


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