RE: BIG Co-housing. Who Loves It? Who Hates It?
From: Lion Kuntz (
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2006 15:37:55 -0800 (PST)

--- Eris Weaver wrote:

> One thing that is important in cohousing is the ability to
> know
> everyone; making decisions by consensus requires a deep level
> of trust,
> and a manageable number of people participating. Our 30 units
> include 52
> adults, which I believe is close to the upper limit that can
> work
> together in this way in any practical manner. I suppose that a
> large
> building such as you are describing could work as cohousing if
> each
> floor or wing of 25-30 units functioned as its own community
> with each
> one sending representatives to a federation of some sort. But
> 100 units
> couldn't function in the way that we do, I don't think.

I am sure you are right. 100 units (or a bit more) could not
function like 30 units can.

A number of people on Cohousing lists have mentioned buying a
portion of some larger development to be cohousing. That sounds
like what your suggestion is: a subset within a large
Home-Owners Association (HOA).

I didn't want to muddy the stream by too many issues at once,
preferring to elicit responses just on the BIGNESS issue. That
issue is no longer creating comments, so to move on...

The concept I would like to develop requires home-owners to be
involved in the physical building. It is sometimes called "Sweat
Equity". This process brings people together long before move-in
day, and persons whom have helped install your kitchen cabinets
are not looked at as strangers any more. At the least, everybody
knows everbody else on sight as familiar faces, and everbody
knows somebody else who worked for hours and days with the
person you barely know but recognize on sight.

Additionally, insurance requirements compell that everybody
attend formal classes on safety procedures and construction
techniques before being allowed into the building site. This is
another " propinquity propinks" experience.

These are not optional -- everybody must contribute, and they
must contribute according to rules created by outside
authorities which have no leeway. Consensus has no role in this
-- either you do it or the building never gets completed and
lived in. Like barn-raising, those who engage in it have a
bonding experience which is simply unavailable to everybody who
never engages in it.

One proven example by the nation's 5th largest builder,
operating on five continents across many languages and cultures,
shows that this effectively creates a community cohesiveness
among the participants. I am referring to the example set by
Habitat for Humanity, whom requires a 300 to 500 hour Sweat
Equity requirement (varies by location and chapter). There is
work for the disabled as well as the able-bodied. Nobody can buy
substitute workers to fulfill their work requirement

Another factor previously unmentioned is the amount of
roofed-over indoor spaces. Architects will finalize the fine
details of space allocation, but provisionally we start out with
a 55% private spaces (units or suites) and 45% shared indoor
spaces. A large amount of this indor space is devoted to
functional requirements of lobby, atrium, elevators or
escalators, stairwells, corridors, utilities rooms and services

Still beginning with over 2.5 acres of roofed-over indoors
space, there is  generous remainder of space for day-care and
teen centers, meeting halls, health clubs, spas or swimming pool
for year round use indors under roof. The incentives, or bribes,
for good behavior exceeds what is commonly offered elsewhere,
and that has to contribute to some extent in keeping one's
standing in the community in good repair.

A third incentive is the hectare of income property on the
ground floor. At commercial rates this represents a monthly
income approaching the monthly mortgage payment for each member
of the HOA, especialy if Sweat Equity has reduced the total
capital costs, and some reasonable good-faith payment
representing a portion of the total mortgage is paid at buy-in.

Removing considerable economic stressors, by the above plus the
potential for new materials and methods of construction (to be
discussed later if interest manifests), means that the debt load
starts low and goes to zero fast. The new building tecnologies
reduces the costs of utilities by 75% or greater for perpetual

A person would have to be crazy to throw all of that away for
petty troublemaking habits -- but modern psychological science
does confirm that 4% of the population is sociopathic. In 100
units of 200 adults there would normally be 8 of them -- good
enough reason for pre-screening through Sweat Equity even if
everybody were millionaires. Sociopaths simply CANNOT work for
the common good -- they are the reason there is a "tragedy" in
the "Tragedy of the Commons". Pretending we don't know in 2006
the knowledge accumulated about sociopathic anti-social schemers
is begging for trouble down the line. Every method including
background checks of track records ought to be used to reduce
that parasite load.

Given this expanded set of assumptions, is there still
intractable problems associated with size? Comments and
criticisms equally welcomed, on or off-list.

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Sincerely, Lion Kuntz
Santa Rosa, California, USA
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