The appeal of cohousing


There were almost 400 comments sent in before the comments list was closed. Some voiced the usual caveats about the cohousing movement:
. units not affordable enough
. communities not diverse enough
. people not succinct enough when they bloviate at interminably long decision-making meetings

Other than that the comments were more along the lines of this one:

“God, I would love this so much.
Any way to get on a waiting list for new developments?”

* * * *

So I wrote the following to Charles Durrett (who was much-quoted in the article):

Hi, Chuck -

Congratulations on the publication of a prominent article that surely will advance our movement.

As I’ve mentioned to you in the past, it’s a shame that the 20 million people in the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia metropolitan area don’t have a single cohousing option.

The Mount Eden and Three Groves projects failed. Rocky Corner Cohousing in New Haven, CT and Altair EcoVillage in Kimberton, PA have faced delays and problems.

A paragraph from the New York Times article stood out to me: “Model co-housing tends to be grass-roots: First the group meets to explore its wants and needs, then it finds an architect who designs a community just right for them, and finally it builds. From the time a group of would-be co-housers forms to the time it moves in, two to five years can pass. The idea for Eastern Village, on the other hand, came from a developer.”

Came from a developer, yet the people who live there are grateful to have the cohousing option.

Altair has been trying . . . not for two or five years, but for twenty years.

I still feel that you treat the “future residents must design it” idea as a dogma. Let’s take Altair (which I worked with for two years): It will be 30 units. Ten or fifteen of the ultimate 30 households will have participated in the design charrettes. Fifteen or 20 will move into a cohousing community they did not design. It’s a 55+ project. After twenty years only two of the people or households will have participated in the design charrettes. The other 28 will be grateful that the community got built.

I wish a cohousing developer would “Get It Built” here in New Jersey and finally give me a chance to live in cohousing.

Regards, as always,

Steve Welzer
East Windsor, NJ

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