Re: Need information on Common House use
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 26 Aug 2020 09:06:10 -0700 (PDT)
> On Aug 25, 2020, at 12:04 PM, Barbara Smith via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at] 
>> wrote:
> Our plans are before the Littleton Planning Board and among their questions 
> is: why do we need a common house?

If you have condominiums in your area use the data for which of these have 
“party rooms” or “recreation buildings”. It is common for condos to have these. 
Use this as an analogy. If there aren’t condos, use the data on condos in other 
areas. People look for these. 

> One member maintains that a Common House is "never used”.

If you walk through a CH it may look unused. If you sit there, reading or 
working a puzzle, you will see more people coming in and out. It is the central 
spot for picking up mail, leaving things for other residents or sharing sweets 
left over from parties, or boxes of vegetables not picked up from the CSA 

A place to congregate on snow days or when the electricity is out. During a 5 
day outage we had a charging station on a generator in the CH. And kept the 
refrigerator working.

The most crucial use is having a place for everyone to meet. The whole 
membership and teams. Even if teams could meet in homes, meeting on common 
ground is more open and welcoming to community members who are not part of the 
regular teams. And in tense times, meeting in one person’s home may influence 
the discussion — or lack of. Some homeowners will insist on serving tea and 
cookies which can not only take up meeting time but create interruptions to 
deflect focus on hard topics.

Meals and even a large kitchen for canning or baking is important to many of 
our residents. As is the laundry, workshop, exercise room, kids room, tv room, 
computer in the office, etc. We have a Take-It-Or-Leave-It (TIOLI) table in a 
hallway corner that we really miss during the pandemic. It was closed down to 
reduce touching surfaces —by adults as well as children.

I’ve change from expecting to only preserve and fund the spaces that are used 
daily by a majority of members to the expectation that each part of the CH is 
of strong interest to a few members of the community. For a few it will be 
vital even if they only use it on Saturday and that is what makes it possible 
to have the resource available for occasional use by others. Like having a 
playground attracts people with children, the resources attract people who want 
to use them.

For example, the workshop is not particularly important to me, but I like 
having in the community the people for whom it is central. The same for the one 
time a year watching the Super Bowl.

Less than how many times something is used is how important it is to how many 

The CH is used daily by people doing laundry, who don’t have their own 
televisions because they only watch specific programs, picking up mail 2-3 
times a week, for indoor package delivery, a place to “work at home,” a quiet 
place for conference calls, etc. All of the spaces may not be used daily but 
they will be used weekly by a number of different people, and are useful to all 
at some point.

It’s the central place for organizing workdays — a list of tasks, for example, 
and people to explain them.

Right now the kids room is being used by several children under age 6 who are 
bubbling with each other for a pre-school activities with working-at-home 
parents alternating as teachers. And playing outside in a  play area without 
other children.

The ping pong table is set up in the dining room since we aren’t having meals 
and it is a game that is natural to distancing.

Think about how you operate as a forming community — you need meeting space, 
space for potlucks, to watch a football game together. It has been very helpful 
to other forming communities to be able to use our CH. And for the neighborhood 
association to hold community meetings occasionally.

A very small community — under 12 units (?) — may be able to build these 
facilities into the homes or annex buildings, but for a large community, the CH 
is important if not essential to make housing cohousing.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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