Re: Single Mothers / Proximity of HH's
From: Fred H. Olson (
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 12:15:08 -0500
  Cohousing would indeed be particularly advantageous to Single Mothers
(as well as to Single Dads and two parent families where both have large
time commitments beyond child rearing -- anyone with children).

  Rob is right that cohousing is a difficult way to achieve the
advantages of shared living / community and that alternatives to
construction should be considered.  But I think his message too
quickly skips over some advantageous aspects of cohousing; in particular,
with respect to the example community, Solo Parenting Alliance,
the statement "they found out they already have everything cohousing 
could offer except the buildings" seems a bit too sweeping a statement
(given my knowledge of them at least).  There are intermediate alternatives 
including Russ Mawby's suggestion of a big house for a handful of families 
that should be considered at least as a long term goal.

   One of the main advantages of cohousing is the close proximity of
households who are developing intentional community.  Being close
greatly simplifies and eases logistics of doing things together.  In
practice it allows more frequent interaction. Rob, what is the geographic 
distribution of the participants Solo Parenting Alliance ?  
Also how many families are involved?

Most Cohousing goes beyond close proximity to have contiguous houses -
with a common pedestrian street or court yard etc which all house face. 
A new construction cohousing community is designed to encourage chance
encounters as people use the common spaces and come and go from the
community.  These chance encounters often result in community building
interaction.  Without the convenient commons, a more intentional effort
is required to maintain frequent interaction.

The folks at "On Going Concerns Cohousing" in Portland contend that
cohousing can succeed without houses being contiguous.  They
are however all very close. On Going Concerns Cohousing is a "retrofit"
cohousing community being developed with existing inner city housing.
After about 6 years they have 7 houses across a residential street (and
around the corner) from each other (see diagram).  Maybe the community
will evolve by getting the residents of non-participating households
to join or new members to move into the these houses.

N Street Cohousing, the classic retrofit community which has 12
households after 10 years, has always grown by adding contiguous
houses.  BTW I just noticed in the Spring 1996 Cohousing Magazine's
"Status of North American Cohousing Projects" report is listed as the
oldest in America (The report lists 1989 as the "move-in date" tho I
think this is when they started calling themselves cohousing after the
McCammant and Durret book; 1986 is when the second house joined.)

           Diagram of Retrofit Cohousing Communities

numbers =  participating households
letters = non-participating households
The characters  "---" and  "|"    designate  streets

   On Going Concerns                 N Street

       | a    f|                   | a    d  |
       | b    g|                   | b    e  |
       | 1    h|                   | 1    8  |
       | 2    i|                   | 2    9  |
      -|-------|-                  | 3    10 |
       | 3    4|                   | 4    f  |
       | c    5|                   | 5    11 |
       | d    6|                   | 6    12 |
       | 7    j|                   | 7    g  |
       | e    k|                   | c    h  |

The Community of St Martins, a Christian peace and justice community
has about 40 members who live within a mile or so of each other in the
Seward Neighborhood of Minneapolis.  This clustering greatly facilitates
interaction among community members easier and more frequent.

   Russ's suggestion of a big house with several families could also
evolve to incorporate nearby houses / households.  This is a variation
of the approach that Eric Hart has advocated.

My general point is to highlight the importance of clustering community
households as much as possible which is an inherent part of cohousing.
Clearly there is a range that can work and in general the closer the
better and that in the case of existing housing communities this can
evolve as members move and join.

A separate point that I'd like to make is that the original message
sort of assumed that a cohousing community started by and consisting of
single mothers was the goal.  But what about their joining an existing
group or with others seeking cohousing who desired a community
that was supportive of child rearing?  I see no reason to segregate /
isolate single mothers.

Fred H. Olson,
Initiator (with spouse Becca) of the embryonic, retrofit Homewood
Cohousing Community in Minneapolis.  We're still looking for people to
live in the second house but it looks like another cohousing wannabe -
Jan Raven who is a carpenter will be helping get house two ready for

Fred H. Olson  fholson [at]
(612)588-9532  Amateur radio: WB0YQM      List manager of:
Cohousing-L  See    and
Twin Cities Neighborhood issues list. See

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