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Cohousing

I've asked to join Common Hearth cohousing as an associate member. I think I've met their requirements for doing so. Margaret and Kevin are expected to join as associates as well.

The basic idea is that you build a community and live there. Each family own their own unit, but there is a lot of common facilities used for group functions. You can often get away with smaller units because things like guest rooms and party spaces can be shared. It is an intentional community; both through design of space and explicit community building, you get people to want to spend time together and to work together.

I like the community aspect a lot. That's good: cohousing is clearly not worth it unless you do. You end up putting in huge quantities of time and energy —far more than you would even if you bought a house on spec. However in addition to a house, you hope to get a community that works well together, where you could raise kids, help others, ask for help, and work together.

At this stage there are still a lot of questions in my mind about whether this particular cohousing community will be right for me. They are fairly early in the process. They seem to do an excellent job of community building and have basic organizational structures set up. However they need to pull in new skills and people to actually pull of a project as large as a community development. Also, a lot of decisions remain to be made and there is no telling if the ultimate result will be right for me.

But hey, I needed another big volunteer project! I don't have enough to do.:-)

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Have you visited any of the existing cohousing communities around Boston? It might be interesting to know how well those have ended up working out.
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(Anonymous)

Temporal Stability

The biggest difficulty you have with social organizations in America - and this applies to companies, clubs, religious organizations - is the tremendous fluidity and movement of the populace. Decisions are made based upon a certain set of people that have far-reaching implications, and yet the members of this group are likely to change, and change substantially, within no more than a few years. You get people moving to new cities, or new countries; people becoming friends, becoming enemies; cultural and professional and social and religious affiliations changing.

On the whole, community housing arrangements tend to be long-term unstable. Only a few communes and monastaries in America have made it; the most succesful examples are separate communities such as the Amish or the kibutzes in Israel. Generally, you need a lot of space to give people privacy, individual housing with collective meal areas to provide a balance of community and the individual, a unifying economic imperative such as large-scale agriculture, and separation from the outlying general society to prevent defection.

I am not aware of any long-term success within a large urban area. There is a high rate of change and defection that tends to render urban communities so fluid that any joint housing becomes unsustainable.