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  • Writer's pictureAl Parrish

Is Cohousing for You? Risk Assessment

For pessimists, disappointment never comes as a surprise; they are habitually disappointed... by choice. If you’re a doom-and-gloom type, if you choose to see the world as confrontational, dangerous, frightening, and negative, you may not want cohousing. Creating cohousing is not for the faint-of-heart or the risk-averse but it has a lot to offer. Cohousing is created by and for its residents. It is run by the people who live in it. Its architectural and psychological design foster interactions among community members.


Cohousing has individual homes plus shared spaces and amenities in the Common House, like a commercial-grade kitchen, guest rooms, social- and business-meeting spaces, laundry, offices, storage and more, as well as lawnmowers, power tools, kitchen gadgets, books, bikes and more. All of this is determined by the people using it. Having a Common House means smaller-footprint individual homes - environmentally friendly and lower construction costs.


But let’s look at some ‘doom-and-gloom’: they say 90% of cohousing start-ups fail. Even if that’s true, the upside is that 10% succeed! Would I accept these odds if I were a general sending my army into battle? Probably not. If I were betting on a horse race? Probably not. Would I accept these odds on creating a cohousing community? In a heartbeat! Why? Because of the benefits of cohousing. And because we can mitigate the risks!


There are lower risks to be had for sure if low-risk is your primary concern. Traditional suburbs are pretty much risk-free. Somebody designs and builds the house they think you should have and you buy it. And there you can live in splendid isolation. Am I saying suburbans don’t know their neighbours? Of course not. But that can happen easily if people don’t make a concerted effort to overcome the roadblocks. Suburban design favours solitude – up your driveway, into your garage, close the door behind you and straight into the house. How likely are you to meet your neighbours? Not very. There may be a neighbourhood gathering place but is it used?. Not likely. Why? The design discourages it and people’s individual-focussed lives don’t allow for it.


Safe? Sure, but it isn’t what cohousers are looking for. We want to design and run our own community, where people choose to live so they can be part of an intentional culture and interact with fellow communitarians. We want to trust our community, its processes and its members. We are confident of success; but we aren’t head-in-the-clouds wishful thinkers. We do identify and assess risks. Absolutely. We look at risk all the time – “picture forming”, where we look at the dimensions of the problems we deal with, assesses risk. It is an integral part of shaping the proposals that we create for most everything we do.


This cohousing thing requires courage, faith, stamina, nerve and of course, money. But is it as scary as all that? The 90% statistic appears to drop the longer a forming cohousing group exists. The risk is never zero until everyone has moved in. There are always lots of hurdles but they can be overcome and each one put behind you makes it that much more likely that your group will succeed.


If risk is your boogey-man this probably isn’t for you. But if you want to take it on and deal with it, and create an amazing community to live in… let’s go!


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