Re: Re: [C-L] Diversity in Cohousing
From: Martie Weatherly (
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 01:17:00 -0600 (MDT)
In Liberty Village, we financed a large part of our development by
investments from members, of widely varying amounts and all private
(known only to a couple of people). When we got to needing more money,
we would "pass the hat" and everyone would write down wnat they could

We also did this with smaller projects, like extra trees. People
contributed what they could, and there was no criticism if you didn't
contribute because no one knew. It keeps the community from operating at
the lowest possible denominator. 

YOur community might want to consider changing the idea that some people
are "blocking" to "has concerns" and the community could discover the
concerns and find an alternative that addresses them.

Martie Weatherly
Liberty Village, Libertytown, MD
martiew [at]

Howard Landman wrote:
> > I wonder if any cohousing community has experienced any of the problems
> > described in this thread.
> Yes, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered jumping in.
> > I would suggest that people relate
> > actual experiences in building a diverse cohousing community rather than
> > these very imaginative hypothetical cases.
> OK.  (Some of the things below I have mentioned before.  I apologize in
> advance for the repitition, but apparently it's necessary.)
> Experience 1:
> When I first started looking into cohousing, I was in a family of 3 adults
> and 3 children.  There was no unit planned at Riverrock that could have
> contained us.  Why not?  I believe all of the following had some effect:
> - "Involuntary simplicity".  Many people in cohousing are proponents of
>   voluntary simplicity, and design towards the theoretical ideal of
>   people who have few possessions and need little space.  At River Rock,
>   this showed up in many ways, including garages that were one full foot
>   narrower than standard (as if cars could be wished smaller!), a rather
>   lean amount of built-in storage, etc.  But the actual people who move
>   in may not fit that theoretical model.
> - Bias against large families.  Some people in cohousing believe that
>   people should not have large families.  Therefore they seem to design
>   out such people, effectively making it impossible for them to live
>   in coho.  At River Rock, one family of 2 adults + 2 kids + 1 very
>   large dog dropped out because they felt there was nothing to fit them.
>   And I think they were right -  there wasn't.
> - Desire to keep the number of different unit types small to avoid
>   extra architect's fees.  Since most developments typically sell more
>   of the smaller units, the fees are harder to amortize on larger units,
>   meaning they either are less profitable or must be made relatively
>   more expensive.
> - "Enforced egalitarianism".  Making the variation in unit size narrow
>   is perceived as a way of enforcing that "we're all equal here", even
>   though it doesn't really do that.
> Anyway, I had to put deposits on 2 units in order to have enough space.
> The only thing that prevented us from actually buying the second unit
> was a timely (?!) divorce that reduced us to 2 adults and 3 part-time
> children.
> Experience 2:
> Our common house basement is not finished.  We would like to finish it
> but it will cost about $75,000 dollars.  One way of handling this
> would be to simply assess each of the 34 households $2206 (or more likely
> assess larger households more and smaller households less), but we
> can't do this because some people simply "can't afford it".  Note that
> this isn't an expense but a capital investment - the community will be
> worth that much more, so presumably the value of each unit will increase
> by roughly the amount invested.  For myself, I therefore wouldn't see
> too much difference between having $2000 in a bank account and having
> it invested in the common house.  But others see it differently.
> Anyway, it would not be completely unfair to say that progress on
> this issue is being blocked by those who are unwilling or unable to
> make that kind of an investment in their community.  (It would be
> slightly unfair - our discussions on this issue are more complex
> than I can really explain here, and various options such as trading
> work for monetary contributions have been left out.)  We have a
> consensed community value that we want to "finish off" River Rock
> within 5 years, but the expenditure levels needed to do that
> appear impossible to achieve.  We, collectively, say we want something
> but are unwilling to pay for it.  That's a pretty juvenile attitude,
> if you ask me.  I'd like to find a way to move beyond it.
> I believe that any cohousing group which includes low-income persons
> is likely to run into this problem.  My advice to you would be: make
> sure EVERYTHING is completed before move-in, or you could be waiting
> for years to do any major capital improvements.
>         Howard A. Landman
>         who is expressing his own opinion and not that of anyone else at
>         River Rock Commons
>         Fort Collins CO
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