Re: [C-L] Diversity in Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 18:38:01 -0600 (MDT)
>_Let's all shed some tears on behalf of the rich!

And how did this subject get changed from economic diversity in cohousing to
an accusation of shedding tears for the rich?

The point is, If cohousing is _only_ a way to provide affordable housing for
the bottom 50% of the population, then this should be stated. It isn't.
>> I find myself in the position of
>> the woman who writes books on how to marry a rich person. Her argument is
>> "The rich need love too."
> That's a pretty strange advice.  It seems like you'd get attached to
> someone because you love her/him, not because "they need love too"...

If you have read this book or seen the woman on television, you would know
that this is tongue in cheek. Sorry I wasn't clearer.

> Let me mention some issues which come up for me:
> *  Do rich people have a hard time get secure housing? - This isn't my
> impression.

Again is it the goal of cohousing to provide affordable or subsidized
housing or to build socio-economically diverse communities? Are the rich
excluded? Who is rich? Do people have to prove that they are not rich to
live in cohousing?

> *  As to the $1 million job - it seems to me that this person *could*
> choose to work less and have some time for the community, if this was any
> kind of a *meaningful priority* for them.

But what if this is not their priority. They have commitments that they do
not want to give up and do not have time to give 15 hours a month to chores
(which is what our community currently needs). Is workshare a necessary
component of cohousing? is it the only way to contribute to a community?

If so we are excluding a great many people who have perfectly good liberal
politics and are also poor.

> *  The idea of someone's servants doing community work on behalf of the
> rich-but-oh-so-busy person makes cringe.

Why? Some people work 18 and 19 hour days every day because that is what
their job requires and they feel their job is contributing to society just
as much as cooking dinner.

Might it not be true that these people need cohousing as much as anyone else
does and can contribute in valuable ways.

> *  I want to point out as gently as I can that most people who are
> horribly rich don't come by their money in ways which many of us would
> consider honorable and community-enhancing.

While this may be true, people also get poor in ways that we do not consider
honorable or community-enhancing either.

It is a broad brush that misses the fine details.

>> If a famous rock star wanted to live in cohousing but needed personal
>> bodyguards with guns to be on premises and with her children at all
>> times, would they be welcome?
> This seems to insert considerations other than simply of one being rich.

But one reason some jobs pay a lot of money is that they require the worker
to spend money in certain ways -- like paying bodyguards. This person's job
would require the bodyguards. Would Rosie O'Donnell be not welcome in

> Again, a lot of other considerations come into play.  Some examples: to
> what extent would the executive get to use the premises ahead of other
> community people?  Do we really think that for one person to put  that
> much money in,  keeps all members of the community on equal footing? Why
> is it necessary to have "especially fine furnishings" for rich people? -
> average furnishings are beneath them? - if the rich person needs to
> impress their guests, is it incumbent on the rest of the community to
> accommodate it?

Given all those variables which anyone who lives in cohousing understands,
would this person be automatically excluded because contributing the funds
to create what you need and others can't afford is not within the definition
of cohousing? 

The issue is what are the parameters of cohousing? Is it necessary at
everyone have the same lifestyle?

>> The rich and famous often _need_ to live in a gated community in order to
>> protect their families. Would this be allowed?
> *Should* it be allowed? - How is this going to affect other people's way
> of life?  How does it sit with other people's values? Are other people
> obliged to give up on the value/wish, let's say, of having an open
> community simply to accommodate a rich and famous person?  To what extent
> having that person with his/her bodyguards threatens the safety of other
> people? (I'm not saying that I know the answer to these questions, but
> they are legitimate questions to ask).

They are legitimate questions but they are not the ones asked. Does the
definition of cohousing prohibit gated communities under all circumstances?
>> Judges often have to have their children under armed guard when they are
>> hearing sensitive cases (mafia lords). Would this be allowed?

> .If I had to do it simply to allow
> someone to protect a vast wealth and privilege, I might in all likelihood
> think differently.

Our judicial system requires that we have judges that make decisions about
how criminals will be punished for their crimes. This is their job. Where
would we be if they didn't do it? Should a child be protected from being
kidnapped to influence or punish a judge? Is the answer "yes" but the mother
would not be allowed to live in cohousing?
>> Do we have diversity if we exclude these people? Do they have needs for
>> community or not?
> I think that their need for community is, more often than not, compromised
> by their other needs/desires (to protect their wealth, and perhaps to keep
> generating it; to have a standard of living which is way beyond what
> many of us consider reasonable; etc.)

But isn't this the same kind of assumption made about poor people as well?
They all have a need to be lazy, live off the government, and display a
level of self control not accepted by the hardworking rest of society?
> As was mentioned in recent postings, diversity doesn't mean allowing
> everyone in.  It's allowing people who share some basis of common values,
> and a desire for a shared way of life.  The rich in your examples seem to
> need/want to have *their* way of life kept intact, while the rest of us
> make room for them (and perhaps enjoy some financial benefits which will
> hopefully trickle down)...

Is this in the definition of cohousing? Does diversity only mean "my"
values? The point is that that is not diversity. One community may lean
liberal and another may lean conservative. Can't one lean toward affordable
and subsidized housing and another lean toward affordable and normal

This gets to the very basic definition of what is cohousing -- not what is
"my" cohousing, but what is the larger concept?

Does one's income level determine if one will be welcome?

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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