Re: Diversity in Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 2002 08:01:01 -0600 (MDT)
> 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.

"the running up against the fact that some have far more means than others"
is a major problem to be avoided. As another poster mentioned, one needs to
have some sort of system to avoid all decisions being made at the bottom
income level.

But how do you determine "ability to pay"? As the self-definition of "rich"
is in the eye of the beholder, so is "ability to pay."

> Also relevant: See the archives about debates regarding allowing some
> members to work more and others to pay more. [snip] 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.

People so need to have the choice -- some would prefer to do the work they
are already doing and pay more rather than do workshare. Artists, writers,
social activists, even Wall Street traders do actually like (and perhaps
need) to spend long hours doing what they are doing. They aren't just
sitting around in lounge chairs watching others work.

But the work of the community is also variable. Who decides what work HAS to
be done? The workers, one would hope. The fear with some paying more is that
they will lord it over those with less money. We have accepted (informally)
a system where we try to put all things that everyone wants and in the
budget. For other items like a universal gym and cable TV in the
commonhouse, people donate funds or donate the item with the understanding
that once donated, it becomes the property of the whole community, available
to all members of the community.

This has worked very well and we do have people that would be considered
rich by most people, and as one poster pointed out, we are all rich by world
standards. I would be considered rich by many. Over several years I have
reduced my income needs to minimal level so I do not have to maintain a day
job. I still work more hours in a day than many people do but it is work
that is not measured against how much money I can get for it. I feel very
rich. And it allows me to donate more time than others to community
projects. If others can contribute more money than I am "able" to, that
works to all our benefits.

> 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.

"Sprawling houses" is changing the subject again, as well as introducing
emotion laded rhetoric. But that aside, this brings up another point. Do you
help people who have lower incomes (by choice or otherwise) by limiting
everyone in the community to their means, or do you share the wealth of
others, voluntarily, by allowing those with more means to contribute it to
the community?

Both money and time should be voluntary. But in valuing only workshare
(time) one is excluding those who wish to use their time in other ways and
contribute to the economic needs of the community. In fact, giving time is
an economic choice since much of the time one gives would otherwise be hired

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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