Re: Your best elevator speech of cohousing
From: Lyle Scheer (
Date: Tue, 5 May 2009 07:59:00 -0700 (PDT)
Hash: SHA1

Sharon Villines wrote:
> On May 4, 2009, at 4:33 PM, Raines Cohen wrote:
>> * I know my neighbors
> I find that people react to this one with shock and surprise: "You  
> know all your neighbors?!?!!!!!" That reaction could take three floors  
> even if it has high ceilings; five with a fast elevator.
> If they are onsite, they look out at the building, seeing the number  
> of windows and balconies that go with 43 units, and look amazed.
> Then I say I know their children's names, where they lived before they  
> moved here, how they get to work, whether they are vegetarians or not  
> (though I forget this often), pretty much where they work (or not),  
> and where they went on vacation. I also have emergency information for  
> many in case something goes wrong.
> Then they tell me they don't know their neighbors at all. Most they  
> never even see walking down the hall or to their cars in the driveway.  
> They can tell me how many they wave to or greet at the elevator --  
> rarely more than from 2-3 houses or 4-5 apartments.
> If they have lived in a stable neighborhood where there are lots of  
> kids, there is more interaction and they will know the people with  
> kids the ages of their own. Since kids no longer go to neighborhood  
> schools in many places, even this is less common.

My mom and stepdad are a good counterexample of this.  They live in a
small lakeside community built as vacation homes in the 1930's in NJ...
none of the roads are thru-roads, common community infrastructure
including a clubhouse.  Lots of families with kids, many second
generation kids-now-adults have moved back and are raising their own
kids there.  Not co-housing.... just a strong community.

I found it amusing when my step-dad asked me how the co-housing
communities handled those who moved in and didn't join the community for
anything (what I'll call here the non-participation discussion), based
on the experience of some people who have moved into their community.
He knew from his non-cohousing experience one of the problems
encountered in co-housing.  To me, it just reinforces the fact that a
lot of what co-housing is doing is not unique, just encouraging more of it.

I think partially because this is where I've come from, that I sometimes
read into various discussions on the list a sort of elitism... "look at
us and the unique thing we're doing."  Personally, I think it's good to
be humble and to remember that "the way it's done in co-housing" is
neither a fixed thing nor was it invented here first, as it were.

I think the only real difference between co-housing and the community I
grew up in is a form of self-awareness and grouping of certain features
into this identity called "co-housing", and tieing this back to the
original discussion, marketing this to anyone who asks.

- - Lyle
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