Terminology to use regarding Cohousing
From: Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community (cohousingpacificgardens.ca)
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 22:13:42 -0800 (PST)
Hello everyone,

As we market our cohousing project to the public and speak to bankers, city staff and other professionals there seems to be a real problem in conveying what we are building.

We have discovered that the words commonly used in cohousing circles seem to confuse people.

Cohousing: Conjures up visions of communal living without privacy
Common House: Suggests we must eat together because no-one has kitchens, or we really do share one big house
Members :Means you have to join a cult or subscribe to a philosophy
Units: Sounds like we have apartments for rent
Community: Is that a closed group, or are you referring to the whole City?
Eco, green, sustainable, organic, solar, geothermal, consensus...Yikes...It must be for hippies!

The list seems endless, so I am wondering what terminology other groups have used to market the project so that it is not dismissed as too unusual or too risky an investment.

The banks seem to have real trouble viewing cohousing in a positive light. They don't see that the common house is not very different from a clubhouse, which they gladly accept in all the mainstream seniors developments. Some are afraid to lend money to prospective residents, and have come up with strange reasons such as the common house has a kitchen, so they aren't interested.

Why does cohousing seem so scary to lenders and to some prospective residents? Is the terminology part of the problem? A long-time cohousing resident suggested that we need to use mainstream language when dealing with professionals, and speak more of townhouse or condo units with an added amenity building, and maybe not even mention the word cohousing.

What was your experience when marketing and getting financing? Did you use different terminology for each audience? Did it change again once the project was built and everyone could see what cohousing really is all about?

Looking forward to your feedback,
Susana Michaelis
Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community
Nanaimo, BC

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