Ethnic and Cultural Diversity
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2020 08:33:21 -0800 (PST)
Looking at housing as driven by the economy, brings up the social side of 
living in our society. (I am regularly called a racist for expressing this 
point of view so save your breath.)

Just as cohousers cannot overcome all the inequalities in the economy, they 
can’t overcome all the social inequalities either. 

Most of the country is not ethnically or culturally diverse. For cohousing 
communities to be ethnically and culturally diverse, they would have to first 
create the diversity in their larger geographic area, and then attract it to a 
specific cohousing location. 

When you look the numbers, it is more impossible to attract “visible” diversity 
than it is to build a community with a much wider range of housing costs. By 
visible, I mean noticeable. Obvious enough to count.

And then being open to diversity doesn’t mean diversity will be open to you. 

As much as cohousing can be inviting and open, remember how hard it was/is to 
get even 30 households interested in cohousing? Cohousers are 1% of the local 
population? Maybe 1% interested but only a fraction of that able to move at any 
given time. In DC with a population of 633,427, we have 100 people living in 
cohousing — .015%? Again, check my math. 

Let’s assume that 1% of the population is interested in moving to cohousing and 
the local population is 5% Italian American Catholics. One percent of 5% is a 
small number. I don’t even know how to calculate it. Is your community even 5% 
Jewish? 5% African American? 5% gay is actually more likely.

There are 20 states with less than 1% self identified African Americans. 
Montana has .26% or .00026 of the population. Good luck on any community in 
those 20 states for having any skin color diversity. If a community has 30 
units, one unit owner who is culturally or ethnically different is 3% of the 
community. If only 1% of the whole population is likely to move into a 
cohousing community, the diverse population would have to have to be what? The 
numbers become microscopic.

9 states have fewer than 10% self-identified Catholic residents. Since Hispanic 
populations are most likely to be Catholic, that means the Hispanic population 
is probably lower. Mississippi is only 4% self-identified Catholic. As recently 
as 1960 it was unthinkable that a Catholic would be elected President. 

Other than Hawaii which is more than 50% Asian, the Asian population is highest 
in California at only 14.9%. Most states are far less than 10% and Asians are 
concentrated in large cities. Mississippi at 1.1%.

Even from the perspective that the people who move into cohousing are most 
likely to be friends or acquaintances of current residents, visible diversity 
is very hard. I dare say everyone in DC has African American friends and family 
and coworkers. That same number of friends and family are not interested in 
moving into cohousing. 

If 1% of the majority population is interested in moving into cohousing, why 
should minority ethnic and cultural groups  be different?

Striving for diversity is important but guilt over this is self defeating. 
Communities need to be realistic about this or they may be ignoring other 
social change issues that are more possible to achieve.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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