Re: Statistics on common house usage
From: Elizabeth Magill (
Date: Mon, 17 May 2021 09:26:56 -0700 (PDT)
I'm still in shock that there is a place that windows are cleaned once a month.

Our great room/kitchen/niche is designed to hold about 2/3 of us
easily and all of us with a shoe horn? Something like that.

Pre-covid we had meals 3x per week with 30 people at most meals and 50
at some. In warmish weather we can spill onto the porch and patio.

I think our common house is used *a lot* and that means it is empty
almost all the time. But movies, meetings, book groups in the living
room. Oddly enough right now our teens hang out in the little kids
room. We've just adjusted our guest rooms to have a murphy bed,
allowing the room to be an office during the day.
I have small quilting classes in the multi-purpose room, and large
ones in the great room. My wedding fit 205 people, but don't tell the
fire marshall. No tables of course.

There was a time we were jealous that our sister community had much
more evening usage than ours, but over time we have realized that they
have more people who stay up late, there average age is slightly lower
than ours, and they store alcohol in the common house. Now those of us
who wish for what they have go up there! (And some of them come here
to use what we have that they wish for.)

In COVID our common house is used a great deal more often. Several
folk have slid out of their house full of children in order to have a
quiet place to work. A meeting of two or three people in a personal
living room now moves to the niche so they can be six feet apart.
Fitness room sign-ups are huge as folk don't want to be at a public
gym. Guest room for a quarantine.  And now that it is warm, lots of
meetings on the ch porch.

Our arguments early on were about balancing renting space so as to
have a full common house, versus having a common house that is always
at the ready for us to use, and thus empty.
We defaulted to mostly empty, probably just because not very many
organizations ask to rent it.
Still, emptiness doesn't mean under-used. It is definitely our center
of activity.

Mosaic Commons in Berlin, MA
(Rural with a mall, if there is such a thing as that. 34 homes.
Second community on site also has 34 homes.)

On Mon, May 17, 2021 at 11:28 AM Sharon Villines via Cohousing-L
<cohousing-l [at]> wrote:
> On May 16, 2021, at 9:52 PM, Janey Harper <jkharper [at]> wrote:
> > I'm currently working on a project that will be built in Sechelt BC.  The
> > designer/developer I'm working with would like to see some statistics on how
> > much the community kitchen/dining room/lounge area REALLY gets used in
> > cohousing communities.
> I recently read two wonderful books by a British economist Mariana Mazzucato 
> on the absence of “value" in economic arguments and the myth of public and 
> private as distinct and separable. Her insights are very applicable to 
> cohousing. I highly recommend these books. She has a wonderful gift for 
> translating economic principles into daily life experiences. I’ve tried for 
> years to understand the GDP with no success. Finally, she has confirmed for 
> me that it truly is arbitrary and has meaning only within its own obscure 
> definition of itself. Economists groan.
> The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy
> The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public and Private Sector Myths
> Her new one that I have’t read is Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to 
> Changing Capitalism.
> The two points I think are most important to cohousing is that economics 
> doesn’t measure value and there isn't a meaningful distinction between 
> personal and in common.
> 1. Cost and statistics are not designed to measure value. For politicians 
> justifying budget decisions they are meaningful but only in that context. 
> When trying to understand value, these numbers have (almost) no meaning.
> 2. The distinction between public and private can only be made if you make 
> one up. It’s fabricated depending on your purposes. One of Mazzucato's 
> examples is that “public" funds support research institutes and universities 
> that do basic “no economic value” research. The “private” sector then puts 
> the results into useful products or services that earn money and produce 
> economic growth.
> The take-home for cohousing is that the common-individual distinction has 
> little value except to identify or assign sources of funding. Does the value 
> of something change if it is switched from one column to the other? Is basic 
> research less valuable than applied research results? How much is the value 
> of my unit based on the unit and how much on the surrounding common space. 
> It’s an impossible distinction whether I look at resale value or at personal 
> enjoyment.
> Questions about the common house are usually centered on hours per day of use 
> and which rooms are used the most? The hope is that these numbers can be 
> meaningfully used to cut costs.
> Cost can be determinative if you don’t have any money. But when you have a 
> choice, what value does this thing have or might have in contributing to 
> building or strengthening the community. If you identify value before 
> identifying the cost, the question becomes can you get the same value out of 
> something less expensive? Does the granite countertop produce better food or 
> better after dinner conversations? It might if your community values the 
> designer look in kitchens. It makes (some) people feel happy and proud of the 
> community.
> The difficulty of measuring value is that communities have to make these 
> decisions before they know what will be most important to them. People’s 
> interests and the expression of those interests in the common house won’t 
> necessarily be the same. Some people will only work puzzles in the common 
> house and others only in their own units. They can both talk puzzle, however, 
> and puzzles have benefits.
> But value in terms of community are tricky to define, too. Laundry rooms are 
> characterized as important because they bring people together in the common 
> house. Most of our residents use the outside door to the laundry room to go 
> in and out, and very rarely does anyone fold laundry in the common house. 
> Every once in a while someone watches TV while their laundry washes but not 
> often. The laundry room, however, “feels” like community space because so 
> many people value it. Even when they use it one at a time and never go into 
> the rest of the CH it feels like a group activity. A group would rise up in 
> unison if there was a suggestion of eliminating it.
> One community had a person who played the piano after meals and a group would 
> gather around to sing. Without that one person would there be a piano? If the 
> piano broke, would it be fixed? I doubt if the value of the piano would be 
> very high without that one person. And without the number of people who like 
> to sing. And the number of people who like listening. And the number of 
> people who are just happy that the piano playing occurs whether they 
> participate or not.
> I never watch sports and watching the finals of things was one of the main 
> reasons to get a TV in the CH. But I love it that people are so happy and 
> enthusiastic while watching sports and will often knit in the corner watching 
> the watchers. A question like “Do you watch the World Series?” or “How many 
> sporting events do you watch each month” would not measure the value of a TV 
> in the CH.
> A sociologist once told me that the first thing sociologists do when studying 
> a group of people is to identify the common means of communication. That 
> defines a community — they have developed and can communicate with each 
> other. I’ll have to ask him how important it is that a community has a place 
> to gather.
> Sharon
> ———
> Sharon Villines
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(The Rev. Dr.) Elizabeth Mae Magill
Pastor, Ashburnham Community Church
Minister to the Affiliates, Ecclesia Ministries

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