Re: co-housing v.s. old-fashioned neighborliness
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 00:38:34 -0500
The question is raised by non-cohousers, What makes coho any better or 
different from a regular neighborhood with block parties or such?
You can increase community by having time together. Cohousing 
acknowledges that residents, like everyone else, are busy with their 
work, families, other organizations, and personal concerns. The trick is 
to create opportunities to be together, around stuff that people have to 
do anyway.

Like, you have to eat supper. So if you eat supper with others, you don't 
have to "add" that into your already full schedule. Ditto for picking up 
your mail, gardening (if you do), and parking your car. By arranging 
things so people's paths intersect, as they do what they have to do 
anyway, they get to know each other better, share information and moral 
support, and feel more connected. 

In a regular neighborhood, this can happen some while people are out in 
their yards, for example, or if pedestrian paths pass by porches. Or when 
children mix with neighbor children, and parents go to the neighbors' 
house in search of their kids, and end up chatting. It's not usually as 
much as in cohousing, but it can happen. There are a lot of "mind your 
own business" taboos in place which inhibit mixing. Many people want to 
be connected with others, but are unsure if it's ok. Cohousing replaces 
the concerns about invisible taboos with permission, even an invitation, 
to socialize and look out for each other. 

Another binding factor in cohousing is common purpose. A regular 
neighborhood is more likely to come together if, for example, they need 
to fight plans to run high-speed traffic through an area with many 
children, or to get permission to plant a vacant lot in gardens. 
Cohousing creates lots of common-purpose potential: gardens, task forces 
on various issues, design issues, hands-on projects, problems to solve, 
events to plan. 

So, I'd conclude that there can be overlap, but that being in cohousing  
provides a great many more opportunities for community building than does 
a regular neighborhood, even a fairly cohesive one. 

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