RE: The fewest number of agreements?
From: bdsullivan (
Date: Sat, 27 Jul 1996 21:09:03 -0500
(I'm sending this message twice because I'm not clear on the correct mail
address, sorry if it clogs up the mailbox)

Rob said earliar
>Where this can cause problems is when people join your community based
>on the written agreements, then they find out they are not honored, or
>that what's written as agreed to isn't what actually is.  What happens
>then is a HUGE undermining of ALL the agreements you have in writing,
>because if you can't trust one, can you trust any?  Again, this is
>primarily when new people come in, they don't have the history of the
>why things are, so they take the written agreements at face value and
>expect everyone else does too. That's why keeping these up to date is
>good idea.

I found Rob's letter and others in this area very thought provoking.  And
the basic thought provoked was..".How few rules are needed for a co-housing
community to exist?"

While it may seem many rules about the # ofcats , spaiding pets, crash
helmuts etc are all commendable, it seems to me that when one moves into a
regular old fashion community, these rules are not necessary for the
community to function successfully.  Plus, the more rules of this kind in a
community, the more discussions needed to maintain or enforce them and the
more difficulty it is to maintain them as new members join or visitor come
to stay.

But are they needed for the basic concept of cohousing?? To me, it seems
the basic legal and financial responsibilites of a cohousing community must
obviously be clearly spelled out and adhered to (just like a condo
association.)  Next level would require participation in meeting and
running the place,,,again like a condo association. The next level of
agreements come to the community sharing of diners, the common house, and
other shared functions like a childcare group.

But as hard as I think, I can't see the need for any other rules.  People
can diagree about how to raise kids, pets, the type of car you drive, etc,
but aren't these normal things we cope with in any neighborhood.  Why do we
have to agree on these areas in order to eat together, enjoy each others
company, etc. I would love to sit at diner with a neighbor and argue over
having pets on or off leases is a good idea, but if I don't have to reach
consensus with that person and everyone else in the community over what our
policy should be, the conversation takes on a wholly different tone. No
hidden agendas.

To me a community that communicates easilly, resolves the most of the
everyday issues. And the big issues are probably going to pop up anyway
with or without the initial agreements.

Then the advantage to less rules may be several. Less rules mean less rules
to understand and then everyone knows them. Less rules means less rules to
break, enforce and to argue over. Less rules means greater tolerance of
your fellow man.

My goal in moving to cohousing (still looking) is to communicate on a more
regular basis with neighbours and to form strong bonds with them, share
activities with them , and to benefit from their differences. I want to
live in area where my actions are one of choice not stipulated. This makes
them seem more real, sincere, or fun to do.  Also, If there are too many
rules, then maybe everyone in the community will be too much the same and
maybe they'll be burned out from trying to set up rules.

Rob mentions that when a group choose to not enforce a rule, it becomes
disfunctional and other the integrity of other rules is in question. I
believe he is right. But when a community chooses not to enforce a rule,
maybe that rule is not appropriate fot the community. It should just be
dropped. Therefore, it would be intereseting to rank rules by their order
of importance. If everyone agrees that it is important to have a rule that
addresses an issue...than make the rule. But if only half the group feels
it is important, then that may be a sign that there is no need for a rule.

When I work with resident groups that are trying to set up rules I play a
game with them.  First we list out the categories of rules: pets, play,
etc.  There is no need to agree on the list, so anyone can add any item
they want to.  Then I give 100 points to each person to distribute to the
rules. If I believe no parking of cars in the development is an important
rule I can place 50 points there, and 10 points for pets, etc.  Then add up
the points. If one category has very little points, then that is a clue
there should be no rule.

Not having yet lived in cohousing I realize this is argument has no
foundations. So I would like to put it back to cohousing residents. If you
have now lived in your community several years, How many and which  of your
rules are UNNECESSARY TO MAINTAIN THE COMMUNITY. (I highlight this phrase
because I bel;ieve community is one of the main goals of cohousing.)  If
you are just formulating your community , Do you wonder if some of the
Think of the best aspects of your community and then ask yourself what led
to that happening. Was it a rule or something else. Then ask yourself if
those rules you have really contruibute to community. If not, why not let
them go away?

I vaguly remeber a saying "the only rule in Caledonia is that there are no
rules in Caledonia."

Brian D. Sullivan, Lecturer
Department of Architecture
Chinese University of Honk Kong
email  bdsullivan [at]

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