Re: Conflicting Values?
From: Eileen McCourt (
Date: Fri, 19 May 2006 10:44:38 -0700 (PDT)
One of the biggest mistakes that Oak Creek Commons made was to set a low
standard of interior finishes to accommodate those with affordability
concerns (we did not compromise the building envelope).  We offset the
quality problem with options and upgrades which virtually EVERY household
opted into at some level.  The upgrades and options process is very costly.
We lost virtually all the members concerned with affordability as their #1
priority before move-in and the homes were ultimately more costly for those
who did move in.  So, we had a standard of very modest quality, which added
about 10-20K to the cost of each home in terms of upgrades.

We did not skimp as much on quality in the common areas, thankfully, but we
did "value engineer" out many important finishing components of the project,
like fencing, pool cover, exterior trim, play structure, etc.  Leaving these
out was a mistake, since it reduced construction costs but home prices were
not reduced; therefore our development partner reaped the benefits of the
reduced costs which we paid for in our home prices.  Also, and especially in
the fencing and play structure, it cost the community many very contentious
hours of meetings to make agreements on the fencing and play structure, and
even cost us members who moved out within the first year because of the
divisiveness of the amount of time it took to achieve agreements.  Had these
construction items been included as a done deal at move in, we could have
spent our time arguing over more important things (I'm pretty sure living
together requires quite a bit of adjustment from construction, no matter
what the content of the conflict is, at least where I live).  Affordability
is a very tricky tightrope.  

Eileen McCourt
Oak Creek Commons Cohousing 
Paso Robles, CA


-----Original Message-----
From: Fleck [mailto:foam4u [at]] 
Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 9:39 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Conflicting Values?

Our group spent countless hours and brain cells on finding and maintaining
diversity in our group. In the end we have very little diversity - mainly
economic and not much then. Mainly we found that minority groups in our area
already had community and weren't searching for it in cohousing.

The affordability thing has come back to bite us in the form of large repair
bills 5 years out for sloppy construction (IE using interior drywall for
exterior purposes). If I were to do it next time I would spend as much as I
could afford up front instead of using the cheapest that would work. Our
thought was - Make it affordable and those who have the extra bucks can
upgrade later. But some things just can't be upgraded later.

And if I were to do it again, I would spend lots of time hashing this stuff
out before construction. You won't have any more time later than you do now
and after people have lived and worked on certain assumptions for a while
it's even harder to change the prevailing mindset (or culture).

Good luck,
Anne at Jackson Place Seattle

-----Original Message-----
From: Regan Conley [mailto:reganconley [at]]
Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:53 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: [C-L]_ Conflicting Values?

Our little forming group (Urban D.C. Cohousing) is embroiled in a
process conflict about values.  But it's led me to wonder if we have
an underlying difference and whether we might be better served as two
groups.  As neutrally as possible:

Our group all agrees that values A (accessibility), B (affordability)
and C (diversity) are all important.

As part of our process conflict, it's come to our attention that we
have different priorities for these values.  Some believe that A and
B are really fundamental and it's pointless for people to continue
working hard on this project without an assurance that it's somewhere
they will be able to live.  Others believe with absolute moral
certitude that C must be most important to us and that we must be
prepared to sacrifice other things (including A and B) in order to
achieve C.

[I must note that the diversity we are primarily, though not
exclusively, talking about is racial.  I just don't want people
pointing out the obvious -- that we probably can't have C without A
and B -- when in fact we could have lots of racial diversity without
those two things.  Or we could have lots of A and B, but
hypothetically all white.]

Can this group live happily ever after?  How?

In principle it seems that we certainly can, if we get past the
process problems.  But in reality, everyone that lives in built co-
housing is well aware that they sacrificed something important along
the way to get there.  The group was really committed to their
values, but had to give something up in order to get nearly
everything else.

How did your group deal with this "what's most important?" problem?
Does it make sense to deal with it sooner (as a hypothetical conflict
when we might really get all three of those things) or later (when
people will have put in time and emotion and then leave the group)?

Regan Conley
Urban D.C. Cohousing
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