Re: CoHousing to Meet Needs of Disabled
From: Diane Simpson (
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 22:29:41 -0600
>On Tuesday 23 Feb 1999, Fred Olson wrote:

>Diane, isn't this a needlessly inflexible response?  You don't make clear
>how you think the proposed community would differ from "the current

Needlessly inflexible? Perhaps. Or perhaps I'm just behind the times on
what the current definition of cohousing *is*! :-) I thought I saw somthing
posted here awhile ago by Katie Mccamant saying that cohousing should not
have a specific purpose behind it if it was to be called "cohousing." Or
maybe I just misinterpreted what she said. Anyway, I think it's a
worthwhile topic to be debated on the list--should cohousing be
idea-specific or not?

> On Tuesday 23 Feb Robyn Williams wrote:

>I am a member of an intentional community.  We are building co-housing
>style >group housing (publicly funded rental and privately owned housing
>co-op) >complete with small private outdoor areas to maximise common
>spaces, perimeter parking, a common house (kitchen and dining for regular
>>shared meals; wheelchair friendly bathroom facilities, meeting and office
>>space, guest room, laundry).We will share tools and resources. We intend
>to >hang out together and respect the need for privacy and time out, etc.
>One >rental home has been purpose built for Debbie, the profoundly and
>severely, >physically and intellectually disabled adult daughter of a
>founding member ( >he will continue to live elsewhere).  I am one member
>who will take on a >'guardian' role for Debbie,to support/supervise her
>'round-the-clock care.
>I guess I'm one of those people who, if something good doesn't fit the
>>definition,I change the definition.  Maybe I just love breaking rules ; )

Robyn, it's not clear from you letter if the community formed with the
specific purpose of helping people with disabilities or if you're a
cohousing community that just happens to have a disabled person as a
founding member, as did Muir Commons (Davis, California)  and Cornerstone
(Cambridge, Massachusetts) . As for changing the definition any time you
feel like it, well, that's not an value that I share. I think there are
many other very terrific forms of housing besides cohousing, but if I were
trying to explain to a group of the uninitiated, I would like to have some
way of helping people tell things apart.

On Wednesday 24 Feb Rob Sandelin wrote:

>Cohousing is a FORM of intentional Community. Just as a coop, or communes
>are FORMS of intentional Commuity.

You are absolutely right about this Rob! Thirty lashes with a wet noodle
for me! I was trying to describe the degree of difference between a
cohousing community and a commune, where there is a larger degree of shared
purpose. But the word "commune" is passe now, so I can't use that, and you
are indeed right about cohousing being one of the many forms of intentional

Is it even worth it making distinctions between different forms of
intentional community? I think it is if you have to give a presentation to
new people and they don't understand anything about cohousing, communes,
co-ops, or intentional communities. And I think it's important to have a
good solid definition of cohousing so that when you go out recruiting
people you're at least on the same general page as to what you're talking

These are some of the comments I've gotten on the street from wearing my
cohousing button in public:
"Cohousing? Oh yes--I know what that is! I live in a cohousing community in
Marblehead!" (turns out it was an apartment building)

"Is that affordable housing? Where can I sign up?"

"Do you help people find houses that they buy together?"

"I've hear of Cohousing-they have one of those in Lincoln where I live!"
(That one was a limited-equity co-op--no sharing of anything whatsoever)

I also got into a lively discussion with one a dear friend about whether or
not Pomeroy Lane Cooperative was cohousing or not. It's built around a
courtyard, it has a community room and a kitchen, but they do not have
shared meals, and many of the residents who worked on the community were
not able to get into it due to government regulations. It was built for the
specific purpose of being a home for low-income people with cognitive and
physical disabilities. and it serves that purpose very well. But in my
opinion, it's not cohousing.

So..bottom line is, where do you draw the line? If you're talking about a
specific idea, and you want other people to understand you, is it important
to have clear definitions? I say yes.

in the spirit of community,


       @@                   DQS [at] WORLD.STD.COM                  @@
      @@@@      Diane Simpson      @@@@
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