Re: Expanding community options
From: Shari Rediess (
Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2007 12:42:30 -0800 (PST)
We in Rochester are exploring a sort of co-housing lite/retrofit option that
is similar to what you describe here.  We were daunted by the full-fledged
cohousing route--the complexity and cost of the whole thing.  We also are
starting with a community of friends that already exists and has built trust
over years of raising kids together, vacationing together, taking care of
each other during stress times, cooking at each others houses etc.  So we
have a community but we just hate having to drive so far to see each other.
Because we are starting with a community that wants to stay together, we
don't want to lose anyone--that means that we needed flexibility to consider
different finances, different housing needs/wishes, and different moving
time-tables.  After several meetings it seemed that building one place for
all of us was untenable.  

Now after several meetings with neighborhood/city planners, a couple
developers, and a few architects, we are moving toward cooperating to
build/rehab a common space, but buying houses individually in the same
neighborhood.  We have a neighborhood identified, have met with neighborhood
planners and real estate professionals, and even have some potential
properties identified.  The advantage to this is the group decision making
is simplified down to just the common house (rather than the whole
development).  We are lucky that we have a neighborhood fits the kind of
characteristics that work well for retrofitting and that the neighborhood
planning group is very excited about this idea (and is working with us to
find properties). Our group has people on varying timetables for moving, so
this approach allows for flexibility.  A couple people in the group want a
bit more space than this city neighborhood offers so they may buy a house a
bit farther away, but still much closer than we all are now--and they can
still be part of the common house.  Also, as we meet new people in the
neighborhood, or if other friends decide they want to move to the
neighborhood, we can decide how to expand membership in the common house
later on (rather than recruiting new members to fund a big development). If
it stays just us, that's fine too.

Nothing's built yet, no one's moved yet, so I'll let you know what happens.
But right now this seems like a workable model for us.

Shari Rediess
Rochester NY

-----Original Message-----
From: Rob Sandelin [mailto:floriferous [at]] 
Sent: Saturday, January 27, 2007 3:00 PM
To: 'Cohousing-L'
Subject: [C-L]_ Expanding community options

I re-named this thread started with Robert Moskowitz observations about
community and how difficult to form  and constrained cohousing can be.
There was been an idea going on in Seattle for some time under the banner of
neighbor-nets, which was an organization, now subsumed, where people met at
local community centers in Seattle Neighborhoods and organized themselves by
interests under sort of an open space program. (Open space is a facilitation
technique where the participants design the agenda).  I attended a couple of
these as a resource person and I was impressed with  1) how simple and easy
it was to get going, and 2) the participation.  It would be easy to create
this in almost any area I would think, but it does take some upfront work. 

I also facilitated the Portland Co-Opportunities Conference which I continue
to hear about several years afterwards that it apparently kicked off several
intentional households and neighbor connections happening.

I recall a weekly cohousing forum at a pizza place that was sponsored by a
cohousing person which created a group of people who formed a community by
simply all moving into a particular area of town and getting together at
each others houses for meals, child activities, movies, etc. 

So yes, there is third way, (and forth and fifth and....) I believe you can
create community around you without having to become a real estate
developer. It takes some time and facilitation skill and then advertising.
There is a book titled, creating community anywhere, which gives some good
ideas as well. 

Rob Sandelin
Naturalist, Writer
The Environmental Science School
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-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Moskowitz [mailto:robert [at]] 
Sent: Saturday, January 27, 2007 11:29 AM
To: cohousing-l [at]
Subject: [C-L]_ Not selecting members in a group

OK, I know some people are going to jump down my throat for saying this, but
I've gotta say it:

Have you ever noticed that there are 100 cohousing groups in the U.S. 
and 20 million or so non-cohousing groups? I'm talking about organic
neighborhoods and developer-constructed neighborhoods and even whole
communities (like Play Vista in L.A., near where I live).

I've never been happy living among a bunch of strangers where relationships
may or may not develop. But I'm thinking that the heavy "group" emphasis of
current cohousing and the long-attention-span "group development process"
that seems to be a part of cohousing may be more of a burden than:
a) most people are willing to accept, and
b) we need to create village/neighborhoods where we feel more comfortable
than we do among total strangers.

What I'm saying, and really asking, is: Isn't there a possibility of
developing third way between the kind of random housing choices we have
traditionally had and still have in most of America, on one hand, and on the
other hand the kind of intensive group experience most cohousing seems to
insist on? Shouldn't it be possible for me to find and move into a
community, a village, a neighborhood, an apartment or condo building, or
whatever, where most of the inhabitants subscribe to certain shared values
(environmentalism, tolerance for others, sharing of some resources, sharing
a meal once a week or so, helping each other when asked, and so forth)
without the need for special architecture, special group processes, group
meetings, educational requirements, and other burdensome elements of
cohousing as it exists today?

Not that I'm a big believer in markets, but clearly there are far more
people today willing to live in random housing than are willing to jump
through all the hoops to live in cohousing. From a purely practical
perspective, if we can find a way to reduce the number of hoops, mightn't we
find more people stepping up to live in a friendlier-than-random
environment? And if we had more people stepping up, mightn't there be more
cohousing slots than there are right now?

Happy to hear all your thoughts on this....

Robert Moskowitz
Santa Monica, CA

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