Re: Affordability/diversity/housing for the poor/rich, etc.
From: Racheli Gai (
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 2002 08:49:01 -0600 (MDT)
Hi Liz,

I've been thinking about the comments you made (quoted below):

>I just want to point out that very few groups have actually got
>affordable units for low and moderate income people. On the whole,
>cohousing has sacrificed housing for the poor for speed of development.
>There's no reason they shouldn't, if that goes along with their

>All this talk about everyone in cohousing bending over backwards to
>develop low-income housing is a load of crap. Just because it has been
>discussed, paid lip service to, and whined about, does not make it so.

I can't speak to the situation in all communities, but in ours there was
definitly a wish to make at least some of the units affordable. It seemed
horribly hard to do, and I'd say that we only had a less than moderate
level of success at best.
We could have crowded more homes on our not-quite-5 acres-site, (we have
36 households and we could have had up to 64)...  but this would have
compromised other goals (wanting to have some open space; a community
garden; making consensus decisions with so many people, etc.) I'm sure we
didn't do all that could be done, partly because we didn't have someone
who was knowledgeable enough regarding how to go about  doing it.
I think that usually what happens in a cohousing communities isn't simply
what one wishes (even fervently) in the abstract, but what one (or  more)
people take on in terms of doing the research; having or making the
necessary contacts, and providing leadership to the group on  the given
subject.  It's also the case that if one person is interested in more than
a small number of things, some of them will fall by the wayside for lack
of sufficient time...  In my case (as an example),  while I'm as
interested in affordability as in environmental issues-
(frankly, I think that if one looks at these issues in some depth, they
are not all that separate)- I already came to cohousing with a fair amount
of knowledge on environmental issues; had contacts; etc. which made it
easy to plug in.  When it comes to the issue of creating an affordable
housing, I have little knowledge (or capability) when it comes to most
things financial.  I'd have supported strong leadership provided by
someone else, but wasn't able to step into that role myself.

This is connected to another issue - that of cohousing being being sold as
I suspect that virtually every group has people who are pretty 
comfortably ensconsed in the mainstream, and who get upset when it seems
that someone might be agitating towards something outside of the
mainstream, which is immediately tagged as "ideological". This is, of
course, how mainstream America marginalizes people who work for anything
other than a very cosmetic change.  Caring for poor people to the extent
that one wishes to make structural changes (not just give some minor
handout) is outside the mainstream ethos, therefore is seen as bringing
ideology into the cohousing "non-ideological" discourse.  Same with many
environmental issues, especially if something can't be justified on an
economic basis, or on a direct-benefit-for-
cohousing-people-basis [because justification on an economic basis or
other direct benefit basis isn't seen as ideologically motivated]. eg: 
Not buying a certain play structure because it's toxic is "ok", if you 
can convince people that it's, indeed, toxic.  Advocating
not buying a playstructure because it affects an indigenous population
somewhere, or destroys old growth redwood is... RED! so to speak :)) This
misconception is based on a lack of understanding (actually, a complete
denial) that every position (on any subject) has ideological underpinning
-  that agreeing to use old growth redwood is just as ideological as not
agreeing  to use it, and so on.
I've found that agitating for anything which is outside the perceived
"safe zone" comes at a significant personal cost, which not everyone is
ready to pay.  And those who do take on such projects/positions often get
worn out as time goes by (that has definitly been the case with me).  


jnpalme [at] (Racheli Gai)

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