Re: Alexandria VA wants to group cohousing with Boarding houses - please speak up
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 9 Apr 2021 08:24:34 -0700 (PDT)
> On Apr 9, 2021, at 8:59 AM, Chris Roth - Communities Editor <editor [at] 
>> wrote:

> Thank you for this initiative. I fully appreciate what you are trying to 
> accomplish and promote here. And…   As you have probably heard from others by 
> now, Cohousing is a well-established term with national and international 
> recognition and quite a number of published books, as well as a national 
> association (Cohousing Assocation of the United States) and other groups 
> associated with it--and what you are describing here is NOT what this 
> established word means. 

A very nice response — I’ll save it for future reference. It’s hard sometimes 
to find the words to make clear distinctions between two things. And to express 
why the distinction is important beyond “this is my word and you can’t use it.” 
Thanks to Chris.

The one characteristic that I would add and that I think is fundamental to 
self-governance is some form of ownership and the control it represents. It 
might be ownership of a living unit on land that is commonly owned or owned by 
another entity like a land trust, a rent to own situation, etc. The energy 
produced by commitment and the freedom to commit requires ownership.

In sociocracy this is called the “ego” — Where is the ego of this organization? 
What is the source of energy? Is it in the heart of this organization or 
elsewhere? If I commit fully to this, can anyone take it away from me? If I 
spend time maintaining or improving my living space, who benefits? 

Last year when a friend moved to a new town in a depressed area and wasn’t sure 
where she wanted to live, she rented a lovely house that had been empty for 
some time. Just as she got settled — all moved in and the place was looking 
wonderful — the owner sold the house in spite of telling her it was not for 
sale and giving her a 2-year lease. Selling is apparently a loophole in leases. 
So she ended up moving house twice in 6 months. And only the owner has 
benefited from her labor.

I’ve thought about this a great deal in relation to low-cost and affordable 
housing. It seems more possible to promote investment in rentals to provide 
less expensive housing. Government subsidized housing or privately developed 
housing are both the result of surplus-wealth. So surplus-wealth is used to 
provide housing for the no-wealth who can’t invest in housing. 

It sounds magnanimous but why can’t they? They can’t because they have not been 
allowed to. The capitalist system needs renters to keep the wealthy wealthy. 
Zoning and financing laws keep it that way. It’s a chicken and egg problem.

Investing in home-ownership is the most common way of accumulating wealth. 
Wealth is not a high salary. It is one’s own money in savings or in other value 
producing investments. Independent wealth. Real estate is made profitable for 
the wealthy middle class by laws that make it too costly or complicated to for 
the less wealthy to invest in stable homes.

Certainly there are those who prefer to rent or whose situation makes renting 
more desirable. Some people rent below their means and save money to create 
wealth. But on the whole, renting means money not invested or accumulated.

As much as ownership has contributed to the middle class limitations of 
cohousing, it has also created value for the owners and the surrounding area. 
We just need to find a way to extend the benefits to all income levels and 

Sharon Villines
affordablecohousing [at]
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