RE: private use of commons
From: Alexander Robin A (
Date: Sun, 3 Oct 2004 07:36:04 -0700 (PDT)
So far self-selection has worked here at Eno Commons. Folks are free to
sell their houses to anyone and at any price, but the people who have
bought have been very interested in cohousing.

Robin Alexander
alexande.robi [at]

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave & Diane [mailto:coho [at]] 
Sent: Saturday, October 02, 2004 4:19 PM
To: Developing cohousing - collaborative housing communities
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ private use of commons

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:

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