|Re: food for thought||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Graham Meltzer (g.meltzerqut.edu.au)|
|Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 00:00:37 -0500|
Apologies for the thoughtless error (mine, not the Worldwatch team's); the Littleton cohousing community is, of course, Highline Crossing. In response to Allen Butcher's comments about Highline, I'd like to contribute what I can - based admittedly on my experience of 3 years ago. Since Allen lives near Highline, his impressions are likely to be more accurate and up to date than mine, nonetheless, here's my take. Allen writes, "From the beginning, Highline's experience in Littleton was a long and difficult sell. The entire community was not completed for years as it took a long time to find enough people to invest and move into the community. Evidently the location in Littleton turned away some people, plus the cost was high." Yes, when I was there was ongoing construction of about 1/3 of the houses. Living in a construction site can not have been easy for the residents but they were philosophical about it. In respect of cost ... the average project development costs for the completed dwellings (at $159.000) was certainly above average for the 18 communities I investigated in 96 (at $151,000), but not as high as 6 of those other communities. Interestingly and, to some extent due to the long development process, their soft costs were the second highest at about $48,000 per dwelling. Yes that's right folks - soft costs (legals, consultants' fees, sales promotion, developer's profit etc) comprised almost one third of the cost of development. Scary, huh? For your interest, the average amount spent on soft costs (in the 18 communities) was $28,000 (or about 18.5%). Allen writes, "I have also heard it said that there is not as much "community mindedness" at Highline Crossing as is often found in other cohousing communities. A significant portion of the community, evidently more than in most cohousing communities, do not participate in community functions. I don't know the statistics on meals in the common house, but they are relatively infrequent (hows that for avoiding specifics?)." Well, I can offer some more precise data, but as I said, it's 3 years old. In '96 Highline had 2 common meals per week. Other communities had between 0 and 6 per week, with an average of 2.7, and most having 2 or 3 per week. Highline members attended about 60% of the time, which is slightly less than average. The group has pro-actively worked on developing good social relations. They had had relationship building workshops and retreats. When I was there they were still feeling burnout following moving in, but there seemed to be good levels of moral and emotional support. There was a men's group and an investment club. They had Friday night card games and organized music and dancing nights. They made decisions by consensus which was working "real well" according to people I spoke to. There was an 90% household representation rate at monthly general meetings - second highest of all the communities - the average being about 80%. Another of my indicators of 'community mindedness' was residents' involvement in committees. It turns out that Highline had the third highest level (amongst the 18 groups) of involvement in committee work. Of course, this could be a function of many things other than civic mindedness; it measures only involvement, not willingness to be involved. Still, it's another piece of the puzzle. I think one of the lessons we can learn from Highline is the importance of children to the social life of the whole community. In 1996 they had the fewest number of kids per household in those communities I visited - 0.3 kids/household compared with an average of about 1.0. They also had the lowest average number of people per household (1.8 to an average of 2.7) so had the greatest number of singles and childless couples. I could not measure it, but am sure that the absence of kids greatly reduced the opportunities and motivation for adults to get together, and therefore, to develop closer relationships. Again, Allen writes, "So the point is that the "dominant attributes of our 'society' - individualism, materialism, consumerism, obsession with privacy etc.," as Graham Meltzer put it, has influenced the Highline Cohousing community at least as much or more than Highline has influenced the surrounding culture (through newspaper articles, tours, presentations, word of mouth, etc.)" Obviously, a moot point. When I was there I saw a wonderful illustration of the power of cohousing communities to politicize their own members and also the surrounding neighbourhoods. They were leading an environmental battle against future road development to save the Highline Canal for human recreation and native species. I'd be interested to know how the campaign went. In summary, I was impressed by the people at Highline. I met some wonderful open-hearted and open-minded folk, and the social interaction seemed as rich as at any other community - especially impressive given their difficult development process, level of burnout and demographic limitations. Cheers Graham Meltzer Lecturer (Architectural Design and Social Ecology) School of Architecture, Interior and Industrial Design Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, Australia 4001. Tel:(617)38642535(w) Fax:(617)38641528 Web site about cohousing research and education: http://www.aiid.bee.qut.edu.au/~meltzer/
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