How to attract more children
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2021 13:43:56 -0700 (PDT)
The most common question from new cohousing communities has got to be how do we 
attract more families?  Which is code for households with children. 

Takoma Village is almost 21 years old and I’m asking the same question. For 
many years we had an average of 20 children in a wide age range. The last 
members of that cohort are now off to college or becoming participating members 
of the community as adults. We had a child deficit for several years but 
because of large turnover we now have a very few new children. 

With 20 children kids form packs and one group or another is always racing over 
to someone else’s house or the whole group is hanging out together outside 
somewhere. Without a cluster of similar aged children, they are neither racing 
nor hanging out. Partly because of the pandemic but not totally, the children 
are more likely to be inside in groups of 2 or alone, or at playdates, school, 
or whatever. (One is still in a crib.)

I’ve been very happy lately to have found some books on the economy that are 
clear about the direction we need to go and economists who are actively 
involved in getting us there. (Mariana Mazzucato is a key person.) 

The last book I picked up was recommended by several people as the guy who can 
explain where we are, how we got here, and the direction things are going. Bill 
Gates is a big fan.

Grand Transitions: How the World was Made by Vaclav Smil

In general I’m on the side of we have too many people to sustain ourselves on 
the earth. And he confirms that we are not headed in a good direction. All the 
figures he presents have downside that he isn’t discussing but in cohousing 
makes a big difference — we are not going to have more children. 

Unless we move to sub-Saharan Africa where the average number of children for 
each woman is close to 5 children, we have as much as we are going to get. 
There are no demographic changes going in the direction of more kids. For 
cohousing, this means re-think. 

The highest birthrate in the US is for the lowest income earners — probably a 
correlation there since supporting children is expensive and women with 
children are discriminated against in the workplace — but still it is true. If 
we want more children (or even a few children) we need to build housing that is 
affordable for the people who have the children.

People who are most likely to even want children are significantly below the 
median income level and couldn’t afford a cohousing unit that is above the 
median cost of housing.

The other problem is that those with higher incomes have children at ever older 
ages. People who have one child at the age of 38 are not likely by choice or 
accident to have 2 or 3 more. One is often the limit whether birthed or adopted.

I’m not a statistician so I can't roll out quotable numbers but a home costing 
$500,000 might require an annual income of $100,000+. The median income in the 
US in 2019 was ~$70,000. Our unit prices are wiping out more than 50% of the 
population as prospective buyers and also limiting the number of women of 
child-bearing age. 

Unless we begin doing something very differently, the image we have of 
cohousing isn’t going to work. We want diverse, child-filled, sustainable 
communities, but are building units at the prices guaranteed to defeat our 

I totally understand why this happens and that no one planned it this way. It 
isn't anyone’s distorted personality that is behind this. But to change it, 
Vaclav Smil is saying we need a new plan.

Sharon Villines, Editor & Publisher
“Affordable" means housing costs 30% of household income
“Cohousing" means self-developed, self-governed, self-managed

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