Sunday, June 17, 2007


Is Communal Living a Solution?

I'm still suffering from pessimism (see my post of a few days ago). I am concerned that the "free" enterprise system that we enjoy necessarily consignes a fraction of the population to lives of poverty. There must be a better way. We must find it.

I asked myself, is communal living a better way? One of my daughters and her family live in a cohousing community near Seattle. Each family has money invested in the organization and has shares. Matters are settled by a vote of all the members. Each family or individual member has either a house or an apartment. These houses and apartments are built close together on a tract of land, about five acres. There is a large play area for children. There is a parking lot for cars - each family is allocated one parking space. There is an area fenced off for chickens. There are apple trees. Near by there are blackberry bushes. Blackberries grow wild in Seattle and neighboring towns. In addition to the houses and apartments, there is a large common house which has a large kitchen, a dining hall, apartments for visitors, and laundry facilities. Members of the community may eat one meal a day in the common house. They take turns selecting and preparing the menus. My daughter and son-in-law do their turn about once a month. Members of the community do not own individual houses or apartments; they own shares of the community which entitle them to the use of a house or apartment.

I have visited my daughter several times during the past ten years or so that they have been living in the community. They are pleased with their living arrangements. I am impressed with how well the community works. I would like to live in such a community.

The concept of cohousing came from Denmark, according to my son-in-law. There are several cohousing organizations in this country. There's at least one in California. I imagine there's a web site where you can get more information (there's a web site for everything).

It has occurred to me that co-housing is not a solution for housing for the poor. Poor people don't have the money with which to buy shares in a co-housing organization. Cohousing is for comfortable middle-class people - people with a little extra money to invest in a home. We need another model for the poor.

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Yes Al, communal living IS a solution, especially if it comes with Danish women!

When I studied at the University of Cambridge during the Summer of '88, in addtion to Italian co-eds in thigh highs, we had some amazing waitstaff at one of our events: Danish young ladies decked out in French maid outfits. Between the dark and sexy Italian gals and the blonde Danish gals, this was quite a delight for a 21 year-old and still would be for this now 40 year-old!

Normally I try to be more thoughtful than that but I couldn't resist ;)
Michael, I have no experience with Danish women. I have worked with several Danish men. My personal knowledge of Denmark is limited to one three-day stop in Copenhagen during a package tour of Scandinavia. One of the Danish men I worked with is Uffe Moeller. In Copenhagen, near the train station, I saw his double. The man could have been his identical twin.

It sounds like you didn't get the "full" package tour of Scandinavia if it didn't include much of the fairer sex. ;)

I've been reading a relatively new biography of the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (one of my favorites) so I guess I'm on a bit of a Scandinavian kick lately.

Your comment, "in Copenhagen, near the train station, I saw his double" makes me think something one might read from late 19th Century psychological literature/diaries - Dostoyevski or the some of the anticipation of depth psychology among northern European artists and writers of the time. Good stuff!
Hi, we just published a documentary on the cohousing phenomenon. It won an award at the 34th Ekotopfilm festival 2007 and was designed to show what is cohousing "from within" as a complement to the existing books.
The trailer can be watched at
Director of "Voices of Cohousing"
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