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The importance of timing in cohousing building

July 2015

Life is all about timing.

If,  in tears and broke, you have ended a torrid love affair on Thursday night,  you are unlikely to be  in the mood to start a new one on Saturday morning, even if your ideal partner crosses your path while jogging in the park. The opportunity may never arise again. You are doomed to jog alone for the rest of your life or go with a second best. It is the story line of countless romantic movies, but it is also the script of the “Overlooked Cohousing.”  

It is a sad story. The story of a harassed school head who after a life of endless meetings with Ofsted or complaining parents dreams of taking early retirement and going to live with a bunch of friends by the sea. The group of friends are getting ready, they have put money together and have started looking for a site. Our headmaster is afraid to sell his investments and join them. At last the group of friends, now a cohousing, find the right site, they take the plunge and buy the land. Still our headmaster doesn’t dare to take early retirement. He is full of questions, of “what ifs”. He likes going to the meetings, he likes the site, he likes the enthusiasm, the commitment and the group ethics, but what if. At last the cohousing gets planning permission and the group gets bigger and bigger. As the group grows the financial risk diminishes. At last our man asks to become a member, confident that the scheme will go ahead. Sadly, he has to put his name on a long waiting list. Missed opportunity.

In building a cohousing timing is all, almost. Members, cohousing site and finance have to be available at the same time. It is a chicken and egg story.

 To start a cohousing you need the right number of committed people, people ready to take a risk. But active people do not wait for ever for a group to be formed, they have other projects. Meanwhile without sufficient members the group cannot raise enough money to start looking for a site. Without a site to build the cohousing active members spend their energy elsewhere. Without a site there is no group but without a group there is not enough money to buy a site. Site, members, finance, all these elements have to be there at the same time to build up a cohousing.  It would be enough to have one element of certainty, for example finance. With finance even a small group can find a site and buy it and with a site the group grows and the cohousing become viable. Unfortunately financial funds are available only if a group is formed as a cohousing and a cohousing is formed only if a site is available and that site will be available only if a group exists to finance the site. Somewhere somebody has to take a leap into the unknown.  

I do not like sad stories, I like happy endings: our headmaster has learned his lesson and he is starting his own cohousing, making good the experience gained during the first missed endeavour, and the potential lovers of our introduction meet again both free of emotional entanglement.


Eve at LoCo