Re: Apartment Sharing Developer attempts to co-opt cohousing
From: Fred-List manager (
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2017 06:36:48 -0800 (PST)
Kristine Elletson <kelletson [at]>
is the author of the message below.  It was posted by
Fred, the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>

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In reply to William Wood's letter,
I read your website of the development you are creating, it sounds
like a hybrid assisted living - small unit development. Let me say
right up front congratulations on building a housing community, it
sounds like you have all the best intentions.

I am not against or trying to say anything about what you are doing as
wrong. I am just talking about the word co-housing and trying to save
the definition for those of us who what to live in what we feel is the
way to build community.

 From what I read on your site it is not -co housing.  This is the
problem, and why it is so hard to have a conversation with anyone when
so many people are using the words cohousing - in an inappropriate
way.  If I am trying to convince people of the benefits of cohousing
and they have preconceived ideas and distortions on what it is, I lose
the commentary before I can even explain the benefits.

I would like to ask you what you meant by the word"politicisation of
the neighborhood issue"

 Several concepts of Cohousing as I understand it:

Self-governing of the common areas, maintenance, and grounds.  This
requires lots of meetings, what you are calling "democratic
self-management."  If you take this out of the equation you take out
one of the things that hold the community together. What meetings
create are: common self-interest, a common goal, shared tasks,
communicating on a regular basis, being able to work together in a
cooperative supportive manner, building relationships and friendships.

The minute a group brings in outside help to do anything in a
community they are giving up control of that function they are
resolving.  The more tasks done by others the more a community becomes
a pay for service institution.

Part of doing things for ourselves around the community is the act of
being active, keeping those muscles strong and flexible. The more we
do as we age, the better off we all will be.

In senior cohousing is a system called co-care. It is where we agree
to help each other out, in the simple ways we can as we age. It is
fostered on the years of friendships we are building in the community.
It is built on mutual support and understanding we are here for each
other. It is not an act of paying different members to do the tasks of
a caregiver. One of the elements in cohousing is no shared economy.
Not sure if that is what is meant by Charles Durrett's list. But, I
think it applies here. If assistance is needed a person can be brought
in to be an assistant, but they are not a member of the community.

One more word about meetings; all those beginning meetings,
organizing, planning how the buildings work together, finding a site,
learning how to communicate with each other, how to compromise, how to
use consensus governing structures.  There not just meeting to learn
stuff, there meeting to build community. Build friendships, learn
about each other, learn about what can be said and what needs to be
silent. It is all about building community aka cohousing.

Shared meals,  created by the members for the members. It's not about
dinner, eating, or putting food in your body. It is about community,
it is about becoming friends, sitting around the table and talking
about your day, politics, your boss, what you love and what you hate.
It is about getting to know people.  It is learning to work with
people, being able to function as a team, being flexible, being active
in the community, being part of the community. Becoming part of the
family. It is being there for people when they need you because you
actually know what is going on in their lives.

The object of cohousing is to build a community, meetings are central
to that concept.  It is like the village of the past. If you want do
not want to be part of a system that works, eats and plays together
why be in cohousing.

I think a certification, a license, something official, is needed for
communities that want to use the title cohousing. In this discussion,
I see that a lot of work is needed to maintain and grow the wonderful
benefits of cohousing.

Kris Elletson
Lover of all things Cohousing.
Interested in creating a senior cohousing community in Littleton, Colorado.

"William C. Wood" <woodwc [at]> wrote:

> />> There is one key element for me that needs to be added to your core 
> concept//
> //>> of private home, common house and some meals, and that is democratic//
> //>> self-management.//
> /
> /> I agree, that's given.//
> /
> To clarify, there are two important issues in this discussion:
> 1. What should qualify for the label "cohousing"?
> 2. What really works? (to help people live with the greater sense of
> community they may seek)
> And on question 1, I agree that democratic self-management should be
> part of the definition of "cohousing."
> But as for what really works -- I'd like to gently suggest that for many
> people, democratic self-management is a drawback, not an advantage. They
> do not like the idea of lots of meetings or the politicization of
> neighborhood issues. So, how can people live more in community? A number
> of different models are being tried -- "let ten thousand flowers bloom."
> We can all learn from the successes and the failures, including the
> success or failure of developments that include common facilities but no
> democratic self-management.
> Bill
> --
> William C. Wood
> Director, Simplicity House

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