Re: Diversity in Cohousing
From: David Mandel (
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 22:29:01 -0600 (MDT)
Howard wrote:
>"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. ...
>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."

Or have a system, as we do, in which funds for capital improvements are paid
every month by all households but on a sliding scale, heavily weighted by
ability to pay. This enables the community as a whole to determine
priorities on spending a known amount of money for capital improvements
without each decision running up against the fact that some have far more
means than others.

Also relevant: See the archives about debates regarding allowing some
members to work more and others to pay more. We have for the most part
successfully resisted this idea so far, thought it keeps cropping up. It may
function very well when you have a community full of people who can each
take that choice as they wish, but it's fraught with dangerous implications
for community solidarity when some HAVE to work more because they can't
afford to pay more -- and yes, these might be people who are already working
long hours at low wages outside.

If you care about enabling people of less means to join your community, as
we did from the start, then instead the community needs to adopt a balanced
approach involving both the amount of work expected of its members and the
amount of money to be collected, plus the basis of collection.

If being able to include some lower-means folks doesn't matter to you, then
by all means, develop your gated cohousing community with sprawling houses,
bigger garages, an Olympic pool and banquet facilities, music studios, etc.
in the common house. Hey, it will still be more environmentally friendly if
you can share these amenities instead of each family having its own! But
have fun getting all your upscalers to agree on whose "needs" will become
community priorities.

David Mandel of the original "downscalers" cohousing group in Sacramento

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