Re: Community Seeking
From: Bryan Bowen (
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2010 10:20:53 -0700 (PDT)
I think this also ties into the conversation about turnover/aging/NORCs.  There 
has always been a presumption that there was a direct relationship between 
turnover and community heath (meaning that the less turnover, the more 
healthy).  I think there is some validity to this, but it's not 100% true.  

The community I live in is not perfect, surely, but it's a great place and 
people are very satisfied.  We've had turnover (higher when compared to 
communities like Harmony, but still much lower than the context we are living 
in).  Boulder is partly a college town, and in some ways it's a western 
"starter city."  Folks come here under 2-3 year school or teaching stints or 
for specific jobs.  The it's off to the next university.  Also, lots of people 
move here from the coasts due to our proximity to the mountains, Denver, and 
the airport, and more away when they want to go deeper into the west.  What I'm 
saying is that there are lots of reasons for people to move other than 
dissatisfaction with the community they live in.  

I would also assert that there is value and fresh life coming from many of our 
residents who have only been with us for a few years.  I also think their time 
in Boulder was well spent at WS.  

By having some healthy turnover, we're churning the cultural compost of the 
community with some new ingredients.  It's not a big percentage of the total, 
so it's not resulting in a loss of continuity or community connections 
(although I really miss a few folks who have left, I adore some of the new 
ones).  What is does mean is that we need to attend to how to bring new folks 
in elegantly, and say good bye to others in a righteous way.  We don't do this 
as well as we might, but we're open to ideas.  

As Sharon says, the turnover during the pre-occupancy phase is something to 
consider.  We can't rely solely on that time for building community.  It's got 
be built continuously and sustainably over time.  You all know this, and there 
is a huge amount of richness out there on this topic.  

So, to me, this feels like a conversation about how to evolve gracefully 
acknowledging aging and turnover and time passing.  

The question of the "right" community is a really interesting one, however.  
For me, the region/town/timing were driving the choice.  If you do find 
yourself free to move anywhere and choose any community, then I can see the 
"shopping" task as being daunting, for sure.  I also think it might risk 
turning communities into products in some minor we all know it's not 
really possible to convey what it feels like to live in the cohousing community 
we've chosen without experiencing it...and even then, it feel quite different 
depending on who you are and where you eventually fit in.  That said, I'd love 
to see what comes up.  Raines, I think those ideas sound great.  We've also 
been talking about doing some kind of VRBO specific to cohousing...


bryan bowen architects, p.c.
1510 ZAMIA AVENUE #103  BOULDER, COLORADO 80304  (303) 443-3629

-----Original Message-----
From: [at] 
[ [at]] 
On Behalf Of Sharon Villines
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2010 10:11 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: [C-L]_ Community Seeking

On Mar 22, 2010, at 9:38 AM, Raines Cohen wrote:

> "The process for seekers is daunting.  The e-list, magazine,  
> websites, and
> conferences/activities present a very appealing lifestyle but the door
> in is not evident.  I would love to connect with and network with
> others in the same process to share information and find some ideas
> for a more effective search."

The list of things Raines proposes as possibilities for pulling  
seekers together is excellent, but I wonder if the premise on which it  
is based is flawed.

Joining a cohousing community is more like moving into a neighborhood  
than joining a club or a family. You buy a house and move in. In  
cohousing, people are more likely to help you move in. And they will  
invite you to dinner, but many neighborhoods do that.

New cohousing communities have formed and moved in in less than 3  
years. The first meeting may have less than 15 people and no more than  
5-10 of those may be still standing by move in, and many more will  
come and go along the way. A clump will sign on at the last minute and  
people will be glad to see them because they need to sell the units.

That means the people in new communities know very little about each  
other except that they have all been brought together by a desire that  
sweeps away differences and focuses on the goal -- housing that is  
designed to support community.

They aren't searching for utopia. Just a better way to live. They  
aren't searching for people like themselves, but for a neighborhood is  
supportive when it needs to be, knows how to celebrate together, and  
is open to new members. If they couldn't find one, they built one.

So I'm concerned that the focus on finding just the right community  
might lead down the wrong path and result in fewer cohousing  
communities, not more.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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