Re: Average Turn Over
From: Elizabeth Magill (
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2008 12:36:20 -0700 (PDT)
This, plus an early comment that communicated to me, at least, that I shouldn't be interested in cohousing, because I'm not inclined to commit to living in one place for the rest of my life, brings up a question that I have.

Is stability actually critical to a sense of community?
I can see the possibility that six week rentals would limit our abilities to get to know each other. But is the only other healthy community option for us all to stay forever?

I haven't lived in cohousing yet (I move in sometime between Oct 1 and Nov 29!!!). But I spend a lot of time working on issues of community.. at work, in religious institutions, and in many other places along the way.

Some things I notice:
I live in a neighborhood with little or no turnover... certainly no more than 1 unit per year out of some 60 condos. And I know 3 households, total... not even the name of all the others.

Christian Churches that are primarily centered around immigrant populations create a strong sense of community very quickly, and become a support system and fictive family in a few weeks time. The population is extremely unstable... that is, people move in and out constantly.

Congregations that have had stable numbers for many years... say no new members in the last five years, often have great stability, great community, and a complete inability to see anyone outside the in- group, or even to be more than polite to a newcomer. So, while they've created community, they aren't, in my book, a very healthy community.

So I feel a presumption that stability of membership is a very important goal. But I'm not sure whether it is a valid presumption, in and of itself.

My very best "live in community" experience was in graduate school, where 1/3 of the population left every year, and a different 1/3 arrived.

But, as I said, I haven't lived in co-housing yet. Tell me more about what turn over discussions are meant to imply, and why low turn-over is important. And, I suppose, what my baby community should be doing to attend to this as we get ready to move in!
(The Rev.) Elizabeth M. Magill
PastorLiz [at]
Mosaic Commons, part of Sawyerhill EcoVillage in Berlin MA
where we have market rate, and affordable units still available.
Won't you join us?

On Aug 7, 2008, at 2:51 PM, Kay Argyle wrote:

I too have wondered what the range of turnover is among communities. The subject usually only appears as a throwaway comment in a for-sale notice, "our first unit to come available in three years." Nobody boasts about "our
second unit available this summer." Is a low turnover the norm? Or do
communities with more turnover choose not to discuss it, the way communities
are sometimes reluctant to confess they don't (for shame!) have common

We've gone through periods of stability where someone was 'the newest
member' for a couple of years, and others when, as someone said plaintively at the last community meeting, "I don't know who lives here anymore." Our
average is probably close to three new households per year.

Twenty-six units, going on ten years.

The "running of the furniture" is a not-quite-annual event, with at least nine (or ten, depending on definitions) households past and present having
changed units.  One household has lived in four different units.

Nine original households are still present, including three (out of an
initial five) renters. One unit has had four owners; another has had six
renters (if I haven't forgotten someone).  Currently eleven units are

There's a common prejudice that renters are less stable than owners. It
depends on why they are renting: a single parent on a tight budget, a
disabled or older person on a fixed income, someone cautious about making sure cohousing is a good fit before they buy, a footloose young single who
wants to be able to up-anchor at short notice, to travel or join a
significant other or accept a job following graduation.

The moral being, don't build a one-bedroom rental up a flight of stairs. It
selects for people who aren't settled.


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