Re: Putting in a good word for NOT selecting our cohousingneighbors
From: Cher Stuewe-Portnoff (
Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2007 05:52:45 -0800 (PST)
I was just trying to think of how to say this when Joani's message popped up
and said it well. Our experience with cohousing communities is more recent
and more limited than hers, but the experience we've had with coho groups
(and with other cooperative affinity groups) over many years leads us to
make these observations: 

Those groups that are most clear and transparent about what they value and
believe and how they operate seem to attract like folks -- very different,
often surprising, in the "packages" they come in; but similar in essential
ways that make them a good fit. 

Those groups that downplay or fail to be fully up-front about who they are
and what they are about seem to find themselves colonized by unsuspecting
folks -- people who were looking for something else and didn't realize what
they were getting into. Sometimes it works out; often it doesn't.

And the very, very few groups that I've known who screened and selected
seemed monolithic, homogenous -- lacking in richness, lacking in breadth of
skills, lacking in emotional depth and vitality -- kind of robotic. Also
short-lived. I'm sure there are endless exceptions.

As a person in one rural, wooded community we lived in for a few years told
us years ago, "We don't need to control who moves in here. The forest thins
itself." And so it did.

Cher (& Greg)
Clayton, MO 

-----Original Message-----
From: Joani Blank [mailto:joani [at]] 
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2007 2:22 PM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: [C-L]_ Putting in a good word for NOT selecting our


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

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

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

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