Re: Diversity in Cohousing
From: Racheli Gai (jnpalmeattglobal.net)
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2002 15:17:01 -0600 (MDT)
Hi Howard,
You wrote (in part):

>Cohousing is not a commune.  It is not legally structured as a commune,
>nor does it bill itself as being a commune.  It's somewhere in between a
>condo and a commune, and exactly where depends on the people involved.
>It's not fair to assume that everyone in cohousing is a communist (in the
>pre-Marx sense) or shares communist ideals to the extent that you do.

It's also not fair to assume that people in cohousing can't share such 
ideals on the community level.  Maybe in David's community they do share
it, which makes it perfectly fair.
I agree that if it was pushed down some of the members' throats  it would
be bad, but you can't assume a-priori that it isn't possible for any
cohousing community to uphold, communally, such principles.


>> 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.

>Yes it does.  But it also creates a system in which some people are being
>allowed to not carry their fair share of the load, and others are being
>forced to carry it for them.  This may not strike *you* as unfair, but it
>would seem that way to others.

Possibly.  Or it may not...  Shall we allow for this possibility (that in
some communities all members think that way)?

>> allowing some members to work more and others to pay more. We have for the
>> most part successfully resisted this idea so far

>You mean, like it's a terrible idea?  :-)

That's what some of us have been saying.


>> 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.

>One of the low-income people in our community works part-time,
>intentionally, because he likes having a lot of free time.  How do you
>evaluate his "ability" to pay?  Based on his (voluntarily reduced)
>income?  What about a retired couple with lots of money in the bank but
>no income except for interest, versus a student with the same income but
>no assets to speak of?  How about a divorced executive with high income
>but (due to future support obligations) a negative net worth?  What can
>*they* "afford"?

Setting a certain princple doesn't mean that in each and every case it's
easy, or even possible, to determine which person is in which category.
This doesn't *necessarily* mean that the principle isn't a good one to try
and hold onto.


>I've been working 60 to 80 hours a week for years.  My partner also has a
>full-time job.  Your concept that low-income people are working longer
>hours than wealthier people is full of holes.  It may even be the other
>way around, except for the handful of stereotypical "idle rich".  One of
>my big challenges this year is to figure out how to spend more time at
>home, without giving up too much in income.

Again, nobody talked about "idle rich", or even implied it (just like
nobody talked about the "noble poor", as was alleged by Sharon).  I do
think that many people who make a lot of money do work many hours.  The
point is, that they could, if they chose to do so, cut down (and perhaps
reduce their income some).  A lower income person who works many hours
simply to make ends meet doesn't have that option.


>> If being able to include some lower-means folks doesn't matter to you

>I resent the implication that not wanting to be required to financially
>support my neighbors is the same as not wanting lower-income people near
>me.  I believe strongly that everyone, rich or poor, should try to "live
>within their means".  This is the most fundamental dignity any human
>being can have - without it, you are admitting that you are a helpless
>baby that hasn't grown up and can't take care of itself. In fact, that
>legal fiction "the prudent man" would probably want to live within 90% of
>his means, and save or invest the other 10%.  This is *the* basic
>technique for climbing out of poverty.

So what you're saying, in essence (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that
the principle of people carrying their own weight, so to speak, matters to
 you significantly more than your ability to live with lower income
people.   The kind of explanation you provide above is, in fact, a good
example of how you feel about people who can't carry, financially, "their
own weight". To me it sounds like you are incredily hostile towards them,
to put it mildly.
I'd just like to point out that most of the rich in this country make
money at the expense of the poor, so they are not carrying "their own
weight" either, and in a way (IMO) which is a hell of a lot worse than the
way some of  my neighbors might need to pay lower HOA dues in order to
belong...  Or the way some people might need to be on wellfare.


>If someone barely can afford their mortgage and HOA dues, and that
>doesn't include paying for needed (and consensed-on) improvements, and
>they want other people to pay for those improvements for them while they
>pay nothing and enjoy the benefits, then they're living beyond their
>means and expecting others to pay for it.  It's irresponsible.  It's
>imprudent.  I *might* pay extra, under some circumstances, but I sure as
>hell resent being *expected* to.  Someone else's irresponsibility does
>not automatically become my obligation to bail them out.

Wow.  Has it occured to you that perhaps some of those who can't afford to
pay might also be ready to live without many of the improvements/amenities 
you seem to desire? - In which case they, perhaps, *do* want to live
within their means?

To me it seems that you put a great emphasis on how much money people
have/make as an indicator of their real worth as human beings.  This is, 
of course, the American Way, which some of us find rather lacking, or
worse.


In reference to the situation in your own community, regarding the
finishing of the basement:  I don't know, of course, any of the facts and
positions other than what you mentioned.  I wonder, however, whether some
of  your fellow cohousers might sense your high level of anger and
resentment (and the extent to which you seem to be *judging* them).  If
they do, this might make it real hard for them to take *your* needs
seriously.


R.




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