Re: cohousing vision
From: peterpiper (
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2011 01:10:35 -0700 (PDT)
Writing from the UK.

Cohoousing will remain exclusive while it is based mainly on owner occupation. Many people can't afford to buy into cohousing in the USA or UK. And it seems cruel that the nicer a place it gets, the more exclusive the move-in price becomes.

That is why our new cohousing project ( is a Mutual Home Ownership Society. Residents don't rent or buy. Rather we finance equity shares in the co-operative with 35% of our income. Whilst there is a minimum income required to become a member, it is possible for over three quarters of the UK population. When we move on we get to cash in our equity shares.

Frankly we didn't want to live with just with rich people. We wanted a mix. So the Mutual Home Ownership Society is a good way for us to ensure diversity, and that our cohousing is affordable FOREVER.

We starting building on site in a couple of months. Come and visit in 2013!


Ann Maria Bell wrote:

So long as cohousing communities are based on home-ownership they will be
"middle class" by definition. Here at Arboretum Cohousing 100% of our homes
are owner-occupied. In fact, as a result of negotiations with the
neighborhood&  city during the development process the community has
restrictions on how many units can be rented out, even temporarily. We have
a small number of people renting rooms, 2-3 typically. I have always felt
that the lack of rental options is the primary impediment to greater
diversity in cohousing. At its highest, the home ownership rate in the US
was about 60%. That means that 40% of the population is eliminated from the
pool of potential cohousers from the start, including the poor&  most young

Six of the 40 homes at Arbco were low-income units subsidized in part by
grants and in part by the community. People of color make up about 10% of
our residents. We have 3 disabled young adults, 2 of whom require full time
attendants. We have nurses&  health care workers, professors, state workers,
IT people, teachers, a couple of lawyers (retired), a few grad students, a
few people working in retail/service jobs, 2 graphic artists, a police
officer, a community organizer, a social worker, and a fair number of
retired people, children, and stay-at-home parents. Some are solidly "middle
class," others tenuously "middle class," and though it's a bit hard to tell,
probably no one is in the upper "middle class." About 8-10 people are union

During our opening celebration one of our founders quipped, "We are young&
old, black&  white, gay&  straight, Democrats&... Democrats."(With all of
the political turmoil in Wisconsin right now we have discovered that "we are
democrats&  radicals" might be a more apt description.) As for other values,
of course we share a good bit in common.

So are we all just a bunch of middle class liberals living in a liberal
city? Have we brought "middle class culture, its beliefs, mores, values,
customs, rituals, taboos and lifestyles (often including materialism)" with
us? Are we just looking for more of what we already have? Honestly, I don't

I think that whether cohousing is just Neighborhood 2.0 or a more intense
experience of community depends on what individual people decide to do. If
your main interest is attending the occasional community event or workday
and participating at member meetings, that's what you do. If you're more
interested in community you spend more time in the common areas, go to more
community meals,&  devote more of your time to interacting with other
community members. Arbco is a relatively large community (~80 people) and we
have lots of people all along the spectrum of participation and involvement.
You get what you give.

Given the first point I made about home ownership, it seems highly unlikely
that we'll have any kind of cohousing "revolution" that fundamentally
transforms society. Cohousing is one narrow form of community embedded in a
much larger, more diverse society.

For me, I've found it more helpful to keep my expectations of what
"community" and "cohousing" should be to a minimum. I knew before I moved in
that I wanted to have community meals (it's turned out to be 2x week, plus 1
potluck). I expected a lot of meetings, and yup, there are a lot of
meetings. After that, well, we're all in this together and who knows what
we'll come up with as a community. Arbco doesn't have a sports team, or its
own medical system, but we have cranked out&  given away over 20,000 buttons
since we got a button making machine in February -- who could have predicted

Peace out ; )

Ann Maria Bell
Arboretum Cohousing
Madison WI
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