About 30 people attended the Cohousing Roundtable on February 27. It was a great 90 minutes of conversation with the panel handling a series of excellent questions from the attendees.
The topics included the benefits and challenges of cohousing, affordability, inclusion, diversity, decision-making as a community, and how their communities are managing life during COVID.
Herewith, some pithy quotes from our panelists on a few topics discussed at the Roundtable. A full recording of the Zoom call is available on the Cohousing Roundtable page and is well worth a listen.
• • •
Becky Laskody of Arcadia Cohousing on community and collaboration
I would say one thing I was surprised by moving into intentional community was that people had such different ideas about how things should be done. What do you exactly recycle and not recycle and put in the garbage and not put in the garbage. So, there have been conflicts because I've just got different views on things. We don’t have as much [racial] diversity, but we have a lot of diversity of opinions about how to do things.
I think that it's been great to discover how much growth is involved in being committed to really listening and learning about other people's perspectives. The folks who I think really thrived here are the ones who have a lot of curiosity about other peoples’ ways of doing things…
And, of course, when you have [families with] children, there are a lot of different ideas about how to raise children, and a lot of conversations about how appropriate is to interrupt or discipline a child who's out in the common area, or hitting on another child, or whatever arises. So, just a lot of opportunity for growth and deepening of relationships.
Karolyn Mangeot of Elderberry on community and decision-making
We are clearly neighbors who are interacting all the time. One of the things that we have is called an “Elderberry minute.” It’s like, I'll be back in a minute and you never are back in a minute because when you walk to the laundry room or you walk to the mailboxes or you walk to your car, inevitably you meet someone who then starts talking. Now, you could just walk directly to your car but nobody does that because it's nice to talk to these folks.
It's a great place to really get to know people much, much better than we ever did in all the communities my husband and I lived in.
What surprised me was the consensus process turned out to be a little more of a challenge than I thought it would be. All of the people here have made decisions very well their entire lives. But when you're in a community where the most important thing is to find solutions that everybody feels comfortable with, what it is, is a much longer process. A process that takes a lot more patience, and it also makes you stop and think about, well, so why is this so important to me? Could I not bridge my views and get something that the community would be happy with?
I've used this quote before because this is what my husband says. He says that consensus is a lousy way to make a decision, but a great way to make community. And I have to say that I'm doing fine with consensus, but it was a bit of a challenge to get used to in the beginning.
Amy Vincus of Durham Central Park Cohousing on living as a single in cohousing
My joke was that, when I was living in a house by myself, my mother used to worry that I was going to change a light bulb and fall off a ladder and die. That was a constant concern [for her], and so when I told her I was interested in joining this forming community, she was thrilled. And I was as well. And what I find as a person who's been single living in cohousing is that I do have a family. And for me it's the best mix because I can always shut my condo door, and have time to myself; as an introvert, I like that.
But if I'm looking to be social, I can prop my door open. All of our doors are magnetized so we can prop our front doors of our condos open so that people would know, pre-COVID, that they could come in and socialize.
Now there's a seating area right outside my condo and people will sometimes sit there and read and then spark conversation. We have this nice exchange and so I feel loved and cared for.
Nan Kelly of VIllage Hearth on communication and transparency
Fairness, inclusion. That's a really important one because, as you have a new community, [you have] the people who were there as the LLC versus those who are the new HOA members. I have to say communication is the biggest solution to that problem.
We had some people who didn't understand how certain decisions were made two, three years ago. So, we hold a Wednesday morning Community team that is just kind of this open forum. Sometimes there's an agenda to talk about: What happened? How did we get here? What did you know? Who made those decisions? Why were they made like that?
It's a really wonderful way to [bring that] transparency piece that we're talking about. Maybe if you would have asked me a month ago [about this], I would have had a different answer, but over the last month it really has cleared the air, opened that transparency, and I think it's because we deliberately worked on it.
I think that's the other piece about cohousing is the deliberateness of how you bring together community and that's how we did that.