Re: private use of commons
From: Dave & Diane (
Date: Sat, 2 Oct 2004 13:32:42 -0700 (PDT)
Hi all,
It's fascinating (and a bit spooky) that David from my own group should mention "The Tragedy of the Commons"--here it is for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, and here is a link where you can read more about it.

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How does the Commons work?

The logic of the commons breaks down when resources decline and/or population grows too large. Consider the following example:

Fourteenth century Britain was organized as a loosely aligned collection of villages, each with a common pasture for villagers to graze horses, cattle and sheep. Each household attempted to gain wealth by putting as many animals on the commons as it could afford. As the village grew in size and more and more animals were placed on the commons, overgrazing ruined the pasture. No stock could be supported on the commons thereafter. As a consequence of population growth, greed, and the logic of the commons, village after village collapsed.

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I have been giving a lot of thought to this issue because of a controversy in our own community about an "exit fee" or "transfer fee" or "fee for service" that would be due upon selling a unit. I mulled over in my own mind the possibility that, after we're built, every unit owner might choose to sell their unit for the maximum possible price they could get for it, regardless of whether or not the buyer was interested of cohousing. Maybe they just want the unit for its beauty or its location? I hypothesized that we might potentially be facing our own "tragedy of the commons" in a few years as each unit owner pursues the maximum sales price, to the detriment of the larger community.

Has any other cohousing group faced a similar situation and what did you do about it?

Thanks in advance for your advice!


JP COHOUSING  617-524-6614
"Buildings framed and only one unit left!"

On Saturday, October 2, 2004, at 12:19 PM, David Heimann wrote:


        I keep getting images of Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the
Commons" here.  Look out!

David Heimann

Date: Fri, 1 Oct 04 10:43:11 +0800
From: Lynn Nadeau <welcome [at]>
Subject: [C-L]_ private use of commons
To: "cohousing L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Message-ID: <20041001174616.6485D3FC081 [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

My vision of commons use has always been that it would always and only be
for community projects, equally accessible to all members. A trend is
emerging which I find disturbing. Is this "privatization" or simply an
efficient way to get more happening on the commons and satisfy various
members? What do you think?

In what ways have communities let individuals use the commons for private
or semi-private projects, and how has it affected your group?

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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