Re: Low cost housing
From: Mark Harfenist (
Date: Wed, 14 May 2008 13:27:36 -0700 (PDT)
Brian, I am sorry to hear of your experience with zoning and other 
restrictions. Your description of events sounded exhausting and dispiriting.

I believe it is unlikely, however, that by belittling the perfectly valid 
concerns of others—-including longtime participants in this list and in the 
larger cohousing movement—-you will advance your stated cause. If you want to 
get houses built, you'll have to move beyond finger-pointing and straw man 
arguments into engagement with the folks who make the rules.  These are  likely 
to include your potential neighbors (those with existing investments in their 
homes and imagined futures) as well as various zoning boards, fire departments 
and building inspectors. 

Attempts by these people and others to interfere with your plans may not make 
sense to you, but they certainly make sense to those making the attempts.  
Forward progress is likely to begin with attempts by you to recognize and 
validate their concerns, and to address them in a cooperative spirit. Standing 
angrily on principles, especially when these appear to attack contrasting 
principles held dearly by your antagonists, is unlikely to contribute to 
desired outcomes.

FWIW, I speak as one who long lived under a variety of circumstances in tents, 
schoolbuses and shacks while working towards housing myself more luxuriously.  
But I speak also as an eight-year resident in a cohousing community which would 
not exist had we been unwilling to work within local norms, including both 
zoning codes and conventional understandings of real estate valuation.  To some 
extent the choice of whether or not to have a community was ours, and we chose 
to live in community, however imperfectly conceived. Similar choices face us 
all in other aspects of our lives.  

Hope this is helpful.


Bellingham Cohousing
Bellingham, WA

--- On Wed, 5/14/08, Brian Bartholomew <bb [at]> wrote:
> Why would a lower priced house affect resale values?  Oh. 
> One of
> *them* moved in.  There goes the neighborhood.  Have you
> see the
> organic gardening cohouser at the end of the block?  I
> heard they're
> building a straw bale house.  Ewwww!!  Quick, call the
> sheriff to run
> them off.  We don't want their kind here.

> The goal of laws which ban low-cost housing is to prevent
> *them* from
> moving in.  Zoning is a violation of civil rights, both in
> intent and
> in practical effect.  The phrase "affects resale
> values" admits there
> is prejudice in society.  We shouldn't enshrine
> prejudice in law.
> -----
> Everyone involved is an adult.  Homeowners are at liberty
> to buy a
> loan with a high debt to income ratio, and they are free to
> lose their
> equity if they can't make the payments.
>                                                       Brian

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