Re: "Neighborhood" Cohousing or "Retrofit" Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2013 13:21:02 -0800 (PST)
On Dec 11, 2013, at 12:54 PM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:

> Speaking of a "cohousing neighborhood" is something akin to using the phrase, 
> "automobile vehicle".

Except that the "co" is "cooperative." That is different not only from most 
neighborhoods but most condos.

Several years ago I started doing a newsletter on cohousing focusing mostly on 
facilities, design, and financial planning—not process. I believe the greatest 
expansion for cohousing is in all ready built, especially condominiums. And 
that was another goal—to reach condo buildings and explain how they could 
become neighborhoods.

There are billions of condo units waiting to be cohoused. Eastern Village is a 
wonderful example of what can be done with a multi-floor non-residential 
building with practically a zero footprint.

I talked a lot with Ann Zabaldo about what to call the newsletter to include 
several kinds of multi-unit developments. The title we came up with was 
"Building Community: Coops, Condos, Cohousing, and Other New Neighborhoods."

I liked "new neighborhoods" and I think it could be used to describe retrofit 
and built cohousing equally well. People generally know what a neighborhood is 
in its idealistic sense -- everyone sits on the stoop, kids play in the 
streets, intergenerational, everyone watches out for each other. They have a 
church and/or synagogue and/or a YMCA on the corner where they have a community 
room and socialize.

I lived in a wealthy neighborhood in the Bronx called Fieldston that was 
originally built around a community center. It was still run by an association 
that hired its own security and did common maintenance of various things (I 
forget what). The houses had to be built using 3 approved architects. The 
association set standards for some behaviors - when the trash could be put out, 

There were other neighborhoods built the same way and they had competitions 
between the communities in their community centers. One was putting on a play 
each year that others attended and everyone voted on which was best. The 
community centers were supported with association dues. 

"New" is understood by most people to mean new concepts, new formulations, new 
construction, etc. I think it works to say we "are building a new neighborhood" 
in the old pencil factory or at Mulberry and 10th. That leaves it open to many 
kinds of financial and architectural arrangements. 

The term needs to be easy to say. "Cohousing neighborhood" does not roll off 
the tongue. And it makes a huge difference. Believe me I've been struggling 
with "Sociocracy" and alternatives for 11 years now.

"New neighborhoods" does roll off the tongue nicely. And would rarely if ever 
be confused with "communes."

"Building" can refer to both building relationships and architectural 
structures—new or rehabbed buildings or retrofitted.

So I am arguing for "new neighborhoods" and "building new neighborhoods."

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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