Open letter to Phil & Gillian re: co-living vs. cohousing

re: “The narcissism of small differences”
From: Steve Welzer <> … Tue, Oct 26, 2021 at 1:40 AM
To: Phil & Gillian from Supernuclear

re: co-living, cohousing, intentional communities

> All should be applauded.


Nonetheless, there is an important, significant distinction.

I think moderns tend to be rootless, transient, hypermobile.

Rootedness and groundedness would require going back to feeling an identity with and a commitment to a particular place-on-earth.

Stability . . . in a community of familar others. Enduring commitment to a particular place over time, ideally even over generations. “My family, my extended family, my neighbors-in-community, love this place, we come from this place, we care for this place.” A bioregional sensibility.

Transient co-living, which provides support and home for a period of life, is great. It’s just not the same thing as what I’ve described above. What I’ve described above would constitute a significant cultural shift.

Steven Welzer
East Windsor, NJ

* * * *

On Mon, Oct 25, 2021 at 5:31 PM Phil & Gillian from Supernuclear <> wrote:

The narcissism of small differences

A rant post

From: Phil 10/25/2021

“No it’s not coliving, it’s cohousing”
“No it’s not cohousing, it’s an intentional community”
“No it’s not an intentional community, it’s a commune”
“No it’s not a commune, it’s a co-op”

These distinctions drive us absolutely crazy.

And we were mega-triggered by Sunday’s article on cohousing in the NYTimes. While otherwise a good article, the author goes to great length to draw a sharp line between coliving (aka the shitty, precarious thing that renters in cities do) and cohousing (aka the wholesome thing that decent society members do in the suburbs).

From the article:

“Co-housing sounds confusingly similar to co-living but has a whole different vibe. Co-housers aren’t transient. They have a much stickier idea of social affiliation, and they’re not about to rent a bedroom in some random complex. To draw even finer distinctions: Co-housing communities are not communes. Residents do not give up financial privacy any more than they give up domestic privacy. They have their own bank accounts and commute to ordinary jobs.

“Co-living accommodates precarity; co-housing seeks stability. Podding is a byproduct of the collapse of society; co-housing builds society.”

↑↑ This is total bullshit ↑↑

These hairsplitting distinctions are silly. And harmful. And at Supernuclear we reject them.

You might call this the “narcissism of small differences” … thinking that your favorite flavor of ice cream is the only pure one. And that other ice cream flavors don’t deserve the name.

I’ve started both a coliving community and a cohousing community (as the NYT author would define it) and can promise you that both can provide equal amounts of stability, support, belonging, purpose, and joy. Both build society.

In this newsletter, we choose to use the word “coliving” as an inclusive umbrella term to include all manner of people trying to live their best life together. We don’t gate-keep based on the specifics of the context.

Because what’s core here is trying to align our built environment with our happiness by surrounding ourselves with people that inspire and care for us. And we recognize that this manifests differently in different contexts and with different personal preferences.

Some may buy … some may rent.
Some might be professionally managed … some might DIY.
Some may do it in cities … some may do it in the suburbs … some may do it in the countryside.
Some might make decisions by consensus … some by benevolent dictatorship.
Some may share finances … some may keep them separate.
Some may share bedrooms in a house … some may have their own units.
Some may do permaculture … some may do Instacart.
Some might design for kids … some for adults.

All should be applauded. All should find common cause.

So for us, it’s all just coliving. It manifests differently in different contexts. And we hope you find the flavor that brings you the most joy, belonging and meaning.

© 2021 Phil and Gillian (548 Market Street, PMB 72296, San Francisco, CA 94104)

A co-editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a Green movement activist for almost thirty years.