Putting in a good word for NOT selecting our cohousing neighbors
From: Joani Blank (joaniswansway.com)
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2007 12:21:38 -0800 (PST)

I've lived in two cohousing communities for a total of almost 15 years, and I've visited 58 others. And I've never heard a complaint about "not being able to select members." Personally, I'm really glad to live with a group of people all of whom actively selected themselves into my community, and frankly, that includes several who might well not have been chosen if the selection had been done by the core group.

I applaud your devotion to your values, but I'm convinced that if you put those values front and center every time you introduce people to your community-in-formation you will attract people who share those values. You will also meet people along the way who think you are swell, but whose values differ enough from yours that they will not choose to put a whole bunch of time, money and energy into physically and socially building a community with you. Also there will be many who you'd select in a minute, but who don't want to, or can't for reasons other than lack of desire or commitment to values you share with them, be a part of your group.

Assume for a moment that in your area, a community was forming all of whom shared a set of values completely different from yours. Say, for example that they were a group who had no concerns about the environment, thought it was really important to have a golf course on their property, and mostly shared a set of religious beliefs that was foreign to you.. Would you choose to spend or borrow a couple hundred thousand dollars in order to live cheek by jowl with them? I doubt it. So it wouldn't matter whether or not you could meet their criteria for selection, if they had them.

I recognize that as a community you intend to run one or more businesses. But I don't believe that is an adequate reason to have selection. Yes, you will put it out that you are eager to have folks with business experience, or in your case perhaps farming experience, be a part of your group. Even if you don't have a selection process, you are going to have to attract those people in the first instance. It's highly likely that those who are still attracted to you after you have exposed them to some of the realities and challenges that you know are ahead, and still want to be a part of your group, will be the same people you would have selected if you had had a selection process.

Many, many people, when they first hear about cohousing communities, say that they wouldn't consider living in one unless they could do it with their friends or people of their choosing. Although cohousing is growing by leaps and bounds, most groups still don't have the luxury of having many more households wanting to buy in than they have room for. And I'm actually glad for that. Real life is full of a lot of people who share some but not all of our important values, and I want to live in real life, especially I can do so in a community that I chose to be in because I do share so many, if not all, of their values.

Though some people might want it, I don't want to live in a community with people all of whom are a lot like me. It's interesting to me that though many cohousers say they want diversity in their communities, in practice they'll consider (or even in a few instances adopt) a selection process that will, in effect, greatly limit the amount and kind of the very diversity they say they are seeking.

Do others have thoughts on this subject?


Joani Blank
Swan's Market Cohousing
Oakland, CA.

At 06:34 AM 1/26/2007, Nathan wrote:
Because we'll be living and working together most of our time, we need to be able to select members we feel fit with our goals and lifestyle. But, from the above quote, I gather that co-ops are in the same boat as cohousers with regards to not being able to select members.

Joani Blank
land line (preferred): 510-834-7399
cell: 510-387-1315
joani [at] swansway.com

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