Re: Underpaid inputs (was Re: building industry)
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2016 07:14:16 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jun 22, 2016, at 9:49 AM, William C. Wood <woodwc [at]> wrote:
> And that made me wonder -- are there critical underpaid inputs in cohousing? 
> [There seem to be many thriving communities, and many potential future 
> residents of cohousing who can't currently find or create a community. Is the 
> explanation simply that "development and management" is an underpaid input in 
> cohousing?]

I think your examples of "underpaid input” and the example of the store that 
fails or can’t expand because the labor is not appropriately compensated is 
very good and helpful.

But it is very hard to determine compensation in cohousing. How is work 
measured? Cohousing is built on human capital. A community grows on the 
strength of its members. Not just hourly labor but skills and connections. 
There is no money exchanged. How do you pay the person who plays the piano and 
leads singing after meals? This would be a vital part of  community life with 
many benefits. As a paid position it wouldn’t exist at all and if it did, would 
change the character of the event.

I often say we should hire out those things that can be hired out — the 
cleaning — and spend more time on the things that can’t == discussion groups, 
meals, governance, etc. But people like the cleaning and maintenance tasks. 
They like working together and it is a break from daily work at desks and 

Perhaps we should be clearer about recognizing contributions. Like TimeBanks 
which record work on an hour per hour basis. All work is compensated equally — 
with an hour from someone else.

For the most part, I think the professionals are compensated to the degree that 
the market supports the ability to compensate. Cohousing isn’t the same as 
developing a conventional housing. You can’t build it and then charge market 
rate and expect people to pay for it. It’s built on a different premise with 
different risks.

> [I've long been curious about the idea that consumers are not well served by 
> existing housing patterns, even though they're getting "what they want" 
> See
>   , about halfway down, concerning "expenditure cascades."]
> Sorry for the wonkishness, so just to get back: Thanks again, Eris, for your 
> excellent post

I haven’t had time to look at the article but will. The wonky language is very 
helpful when it gives clarifying names to phenomenon that we all know but 
haven’t clearly identified.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.