Philip Dowds, Cornerstone Village Cohousing (Cambridge)
In response to this query on coho-l:
I am an owner at Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community in Nanaimo. One thing I am curious about, is the number of people who say they want to rent for awhile before deciding to buy a unit. They want to "try it out" and "see if it is a fit". As people can't commonly do this with houses and condos, or cohousing communities that don't have rentals, why do you think people assume they could or should try out cohousing before buying?
Philip Dowds/Conerstone Cohousing replies:
My experience is that cohousing communities, like people, have distinct and different personalities. Some operate with formality (adherence to rules and procedures), and some with informality (seeking what makes sense and feels right in the immediate context); neither approach is inherently right or wrong. Some cohos are largely harmonious, with just a couple of no-show participants. Other cohos are divided into camps that see things very differently — and then also acquire a camp of drop-outs having low tolerance for controversy. Some cohos have lots of kids, some do not; the adult experience varies accordingly. And so on.
Since cohousing is not just a place to sleep, but also a place to engage, it makes perfect sense for candidate members and the established community to scope each other out. At Cornerstone, we try to encourage interested buyers (or renters) to come to some meetings; attend a community dinner; join us on workdays; and chat with random members. Fair housing law prohibits us from discriminating among buyers, but we find that with a little mutual exposure, buyers who would not be a good fit typically discover this, and self-de-select.
PS: Coho personalities can and do morph over time, partly due to ordinary move-out-move-in dynamics that shift the demographics, and sometimes because individual members evolve in their understanding of how to live in community. Cohousing is (or should be) an active lifestyle of continuous re-invention, not a anthropological museum.