Housing Solutions [was What will be changed forever
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 2020 11:41:22 -0700 (PDT)
(SpamAttack has selectively been returning message from Coho-L. This was one of 
them so I’m late in replying I wondered what had happened to Ron.)

> On Apr 23, 2020, at 10:34 AM, Ron Ingram <ingramr88 [at] gmail.com> wrote:
> We grew accustomed to having our churches and neighbors team
> up to supply the community with food, [snip] they came together
> as a community with the little they had....they found out that
> churches were our bedrock and preceded to bomb them.

I hadn’t made this connection before (though it is obvious). I had just thought 
of the churches as places where there were largest number of people at one 

> Look at what the U.S, did to Cuba. They cut them off economically,
> leaving them to suffocate economically but in my opinion, thats one of
> the best things that could have happened to Cuba. Research if for
> yourself. I think they found out what true freedom was.

There was a program on NOVA in recently on Cuba’s progress in treating cancer 
by strengthening the immune system. Other countries thought this couldn’t be 
done but their independence allowed them move forward without NIH giving them 
permission by funding their research.

> Even with a rent freeze and eviction moratorium, many of the homeless
> who were without homes before are still without homes while empty vacant 
> buildings and apartments just sit empty.

In addition to the Oakland group, I remember seeing other groups doing the same 
thing in other cities. There is an organization in DC that buys buildings that 
have been claimed for back taxes and rehab them for low-income housing.

> They also protect the families from mean housed people who harass
> them from the comforts of their homes.

NYCity also has a very strong tenants rights court. What has happened is that 
landlords will keep apartments off the market rather than grant renters rights 
to another renter. There are people who say that the rental market in NY would 
be flooded with apartments and rents would fall if warehousing in rent 
controlled buildings was declared illegal.

> We save ourselves by
> doing what the intentional co-housing community has done and is doing
> -- being human, coming together and supplying each other regardless of
> the money. There are some thrivers and survivors out there who know
> what that means. Even under social distancing we can do this.

We do have to save ourselves. People have forgotten that we are the government. 
Increasingly we have forgotten that. With majority rule, the majority rules — 
but in our society at the moment, not even the majority rules. Increasingly a 
manipulative minority rules.

In a democratic country every one is supposed to be free and to have equal 
opportunity. The White House Pandemic proclamations and statements from the 
Republican leadership in the Senate have clearly highlighted that not everyone 
got the message. Their solutions have not only been awarded equally but have 
resulted in increased income inequality.

This is one thing that I think cohousing could lead a charge on. It prides 
itself on not being political or making political endorsements. This is a good 
thing but it needs to be done in the context of governance. Just because we 
don’t take sides or lobby doesn’t mean that we can’t demonstrate and support 
good government.

I’ve hit a snag in working on the Sustainable Cohousing website but one of the 
issues that I think is important is for communities to develop governance 
principles that can be extended to the larger community — schools, clubs, 
organizations, etc, not just local government. A firm grounding in other social 
institutions can more easily sidestep political party control.

Capitalism isn’t perfect but it’s better than anything else we know. I think 
the problem is that capitalism has become unleashed from democratic values. If 
religion is going to play a much smaller role in teaching and maintaining 
ethical behavior, then what will? Democracy has been a strong moral force but 
in the name of religious freedom, how far can it go?

As an aside: A librarian at the University of Illinois was accused by an Arab 
student of trying to indoctrinate him when she explained that books on reserve 
were there for all the students and he had to share.

> I would find a way to turn my building
> into free intentional co housing.

The problem with free is that it doesn’t exist. Even if a group is given an 
abandoned building by the city, someone has to pay for rehab, maintenance, 
repairs, utilities, taxes, etc. The person or government agency then controls 
the building. If a person has a rent-controlled 5 bedroom apartment on Park 
Avenue and pays $1,000 a month rent, that is close to free in Manhattan. But 
the person is constantly under the control of the rent control laws, city laws, 
and the whims of housing court. They are not free and not in control of 
anything but the door key. Depending on the landlord, a person paying 1/16 of 
the market rate might have to go to court to get a leak in the ceiling fixed. 
The published regulations use dates like 1-2 days and within a week, but the 
stories friend have relayed it can take a year or more.

Rentals in cohousing are also governed by local laws. We had one case (and this 
is very unusual but it happened) in which the renter moved out but there is a 
law that says a renter has 4 months to buy the apt at the contracted price if 
someone else makes an offer. They have to sign a form to waive that right. 
Unfortunately, that form did not surface until she had moved out and purchased 
a new house. She refused to sign it because it said “as the tenant of ____ I 
waive my right of first purchase.” She wasn’t a tenant.

Real estate law is complex and varies with each and every location.

Such is the problem with building low-income housing. It requires that the 
building meet construction and zoning codes. Often finding holes in the law, 
and building before the laws can be changed. In the DIY days of the 1970s, a 
woman who couldn’t afford heat, electricity, water, and sewer services, built 
the only structure she could find that was zoned to meet those requirements. 
She built a boat house up on stilts that met the specifications for pilings. 
The code didn’t mention water or boats.

> I hope this did not offend anyone or come off as ranty. I love this
> community of thinkers and humanitarians. and Yes, I am pushing the
> envelope here. Yes, I am.

I think the envelop has to be pushed. Every cohousing community pushes some 
boundaries but usually not as many as they would like to push. It’s a lot of 
work to do it legally. It is much easier now for communities to get zoning 
variances to cluster buildings on one corner of a lot in order to have all the 
cars "over there” and to have the green space all in one place. That was work 
and took months and months to accomplish in many places. In others it just 
couldn’t be done. 

Allowing unrelated people to occupy the same living quarters is against zoning 
in other places. “Unconventional” households have to get around that some how.

So cohousing has pushed a lot of boundaries. When it started banks would not 
give construction loans and developers wouldn’t work with them. They did all 
the contracting themselves and often lost lots of money because they were 
learning on the job. Many were lot development models just because of those 

Even to have children in a condominium or condominium like structure was not 
the norm. It still isn’t in most. 

This is much longer than I intended but these issues are important and we don’t 
discuss them enough to build any understanding of how we move cohousing forward 
from this point in any other way than just building more of the same. That’s 
good but there is more to do in housing.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"Behavior is determined by the prevailing form of decision making." Gerard 

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