Re: Lack of scale, not building costs
From: Fred-List manager (
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2016 04:22:01 -0700 (PDT)
Don Benson <benson6451 [at]>
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Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
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--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------
Virgil, Tiffany and others.

Building and sustaining long term relationships is the challenge of
our times, individual, community, political, religious, etc.  This
challenge is made more difficult when we recognize that individual
development is not directly related to age, is complex (liberal vs.
conservative vs. moderate??, etc.,) and does not stop at the age of 16
(Piaget?).   Each of us continually confronts the tension between
freedom from and responsibility to others.  It is good to know where
you are in that tension, so as to not create agreements that cannot be


> On Aug 29, 2016, at 3:16 AM, cohousing-l-request [at] wrote:
>   1. Re: Lack of scale, not building costs (Virgil Huston)
> Tiffany,
> I think you just nailed it from my perspective. Very well articulated.
> That is why I am thinking of moving back to a town/city setting where
> it is easier to find and hang out with like minded folks and to get to
> and from places. Gated communities and their rules are at least known
> to buyers before they buy. I guess that is true in cohousing, as well.
> It all boils down to being around people you get along with. A couple
> things I see here on these forums are the frequent posts about
> difficulty of getting people to go to a couple communal dinners a week
> or month, the huge number of posts about creating rules for
> everything, and the difficulty of getting people to work. There is a
> hilarious article written by a comedienne about shopping at Whole
> Foods (Whole Paycheck). I have been to a couple of different Whole
> Foods stores and always felt they thought I was not cool enough to be
> there. And, her definition of what the word Namaste really means in a
> Whole Foods context has me rolling on the floor. So, I keep going back
> to finding a small house that I can afford in a community with a lot
> of cultural options and where there are at least a few people that
> share my interests. I think buying into cohousing is the biggest
> housing risk one can take. In most communes, it is cheaper to get in
> and easier to get out if you find it isn't for you.
> Cheers,
> Virgil
> On Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 7:29 PM, Tiffany Lee Brown <magdalen23 [at] 
>> wrote:
>> this is such a good point. the current model doesn't scale well because it
>> requires those extremely dedicated founders to get things going, and
>> because funding institutions, municipalities, etc are underprepared for
>> dealing with cohousing communities. your example of Amazon is perfect. they
>> could get stuff accomplished in any town where they employed a chunk of
>> people -- the municipalities typically kiss the asses of big companies.
>> also, people hear of the cohousing concept and make assumptions about who
>> they'd meet in a cohousing situation ("But i don't want to live with 100%
>> hippies" i heard someone say) or about communication styles. personally,
>> i've been involved with enough consensus-focused groups that i am actually
>> *scared* of nonviolent communication and consensus! in my experience
>> (Eugene, Oregon and Berkeley, California and Goddard College and artist
>> cooperatives in Portland, to name a few) it can imply endless meetings
>> filled with people compromising simple honesty in order to contort every
>> assertion into a form that could never possibly be accused of hurting
>> someone's feelings. the result is often passive-aggressive behavior, power
>> grabs by folks who happen to be good at NVC techniques, and an atmosphere
>> of repression plastered with a faux Buddha smile. UGH!!! in reality, i
>> don't think NVC, trying to achieve some level of consensus, cohousing, or
>> communal living have to work that way, but i know *lots* of people who make
>> that assumption. sometimes i do, too.
>> i want to share a community garden and live in a place that encourages
>> environmental sustainability, responsible food and water sourcing, and a
>> love of creativity and nature. i find that those things are often lumped in
>> with other social/subcultural characteristics, as though environmentalism
>> and nature were somehow reserved for people who don't swear, hunt,
>> occasionally lose their temper, make morbid jokes, grumble about everyday
>> stuff, engage in dumb arguments, or watch Game of Thrones. you know what i
>> mean? it ends up alienating a big part of the population, people who we
>> really need to get on board with sustainability if we don't want the planet
>> to implode in fifteen years.
>> the advantage of the other housing models you name is that buyers and
>> sellers are matched with each other, and the buyer can decide ahead of time
>> whether she wants to adhere to whatever rules or values are implied, say by
>> a regular HOA. maybe she joins the co-op board and gets a rule changed.
>> is it possible to combine cohousing and intentional community values with
>> some good old-fashioned, get-'er-done mentality? portion out some items
>> that the community on an ongoing basis can determine, and hold endless
>> meetings about if they please, but otherwise set out basic rules and such
>> at the outset? i keep thinking that maybe what i want is just a plain ol'
>> housing development... but one where people like me are being marketed to.
>> (for example, the place could offer sustainability, community participation
>> in labor, shared gardens and barns and yoga rooms, rentable art studios --
>> instead of the water-hogging chemical-laden lawns, bland clubrooms, ugly
>> golf courses, and underpaid landscaping labor you would typically see in a
>> "nice" housing development out here on the west coast.) i don't mind a
>> little heirarchy. i don't mind someone making money off the development
>> effort. if it means i don't have to wait ten years to break ground, and i
>> only have to attend a few meetings, then i'm down with it!
>> am i just being too cynical here?
>> T
>> in central oregon
>> tiffany lee brown
>> editor, plazm magazine
>> director, new oregon arts & letters
>> On Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 9:47 AM, Jonathan Kallay <yoni [at]> 
>> wrote:
>>> Hi all. This is my first time posting to the list--I don't live in
>>> cohousing but am interested in the concept.
>>> Apologies if I'm repeating what has been said before, but it seems to me
>>> that the problem of affordability is really a symptom of the larger problem
>>> of the difficulty of scaling cohousing to more than the presently
>>> negligible scale. If there aren't otherwise suitable cohousing
>>> opportunities available, then the affordability issue is moot.
>>> Economists might say that the dominant mode of housing is dominant because
>>> it is more efficient. If we believe cohousing serves people better in the
>>> long run and is better at allocating resources, there is probably some
>>> hidden way in which it is still inefficient, and the first place to look in
>>> such cases is transaction costs. Indeed, if I want to buy a house or rent
>>> an apartment, the market can easily provide those by pairing me with the
>>> individual parties selling or letting out their houses. With cohousing, in
>>> contrast, there is a complicated process of bringing many buyers
>>> together--30 or so households, according to the research Katie has reported
>>> about optimal community size! Inevitably this requires a "burning soul"
>>> willing to coordinate the process without pay, which guarantees scarcity.
>>> If we look for the most prevalent forms approximating cohousing I think
>>> we'd find that the number of instances of the "real thing" (that is,
>>> intentional community) is blown out of the water by forms that are a
>>> by-product of institutional coordination, such as
>>> * University housing
>>> * Housing for seasonal workers
>>> * Military housing
>>> * Historically, "company towns" built around the railroad, mining,
>>> logging, etc.
>>> The reason, naturally, is that these institutions already cover the
>>> transaction costs of bringing people together for a shared purpose. What
>>> the cohousing/IC movement brings to the table, I think, is the idea that
>>> there are elements of these models that are worthy of emulation outside of
>>> the specific cases where they grow out of necessity.
>>> If I were Katie or anyone with IC expertise looking to maximize its
>>> impact, I would target employers importing a large part of their growing
>>> workforces. Amazon in Seattle is for me an obvious local example. The
>>> approach would be to get the employer behind the creation and facilitation
>>> of ICs for its workers. These families are already relocating so there's no
>>> friction there. They are already stimulating the creation of new housing.
>>> And, for the foreign-born imports in particular, they are often coming from
>>> more communal societies and need the additional social support that IC is
>>> intended to provide.
>>> Such ICs would dramatically increase the supply available to everyone.
>>> Jonathan Kallay
>>> Seattle
>>> _________________________________________________________________

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