Cohousing Axioms - from Power Struggles After Move-In
From: Chris ScottHanson (
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 11:11:01 -0700 (MST)
It has been interesting to read this discussion topic.  As cohousers, we are
often characterized as being experienced and successful controllers and it
makes sense, therefore that there would be power struggles, before and after
moving in.  

>From my experience, having lived in three cohousing communities immediately
after completion, there are several factors that have an enormous effect on
the character of the cohousing living-there experience.  This is especially
true during the first few years after moving in.  Mind you, I believe in
community, and I think this model for community is extremely important, so I
have a bias here toward the challenge of experiencing community.

It seems that the more a cohousing group feels a need and then experiences
the power (and the chaos) of controlling the development process, the more
challenging these problems can become.

I would like to distinguish here between the design process and the
development process. Design is about defining the dream each member of each
growing community has for their new community, and it is about coming to
consensus on that final definition in the form of official plans and
specifications from which a project can be contracted and built. Development
on the other hand, includes acquiring land, doing feasibility, hiring
professionals, acquiring permits and land use entitlements, arranging for
development partnerships and financing, and of course arranging for the
construction of the project.

For the sake of discussion I would like to propose the following cohousing
axioms (Self-evident or universally recognized truths).  Please feel free to
react strongly. I for one would really like to know what others have

1. The more a group controls the development process, the more they feel
burned out as a group (and as individuals) when they move in, often being
inclined to retreat from community for a period of time after move in.

2. The more a group controls the development process, the less they "like"
one another after moving in, and the more dysfunctional they are likely to
become. And interestingly, the more they are likely to find a scape goat, as
in a single person to hate.

3. The more a group controls the development process, the more the
individual member is likely to focus on the private unit design, and not
focus on the dream of community.  It seems this is a natural function of
having to protect the self and the family from the community which they have
learned to love and hate while experiencing the development process.

4. Participating thoroughly and intimately in the design of the site plan,
the landscape planning and the common house is what builds community. This
is what I call defining the dream for community, and it is the fundamental
requirement for participation, and feeling a sense of ownership and

5. When a cohousing group exercises narrow and intimate control over the
development process and the design of private units, the building of
community is endangered, and often suffocated.

Any suggestions for modifications or additions to these axioms?  Don't hold

Chris ScottHanson

on 12/10/01 6:54 AM, louaine elke <louaine [at]> wrote:

> Diane Simpson,
> I read your message this AM with interest as from my heart sick experience
> I think you have put your questioning finger on some main issues that must
> be solved or fissures in the resulting attempted community become canyons
> that destroy any future community building process.  I will be most
> attentive to the answers you receive.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Diane Simpson
> Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2001 8:20 PM
> Racheli, how did your group work together to build the community?  Were
> you highly involved in the process?  Did people attend a lot of meetings
> before move-in to make decisions about the community, or was it comprised
> mostly of people who moved in from a long distance away? What was the
> percentage of people who were involved in the building process who
> actually moved in? I'm just curious as to how you could go through the
> arduous process of building the community without not having already run
> into the power-struggle issue and come to grips with it.

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