I visited a cohousing recently and I asked my usual questions. I want to know how it’s gone since forming. They had a rough time for awhile, but a few families moved out, and things have been smooth ever since. I don’t know all the details but it sounds like one or more members were a bit aggressive in their approach to everything. One or more single mother households felt this man’s behavior made the community unsafe and moved out.
I have seen other type of examples. Cohousing is considered safe by many but it also depends what safety means. Yes, you know your neighbors so it’s harder to have actual burglaries or assaults from strangers and you will notice someone who doesn’t belong walking around. However, some communities have had crime – usually in city locations where it’s easier for people to find them. Even in more rural locations, there have been questions on how many non-cohousers can get on the property from a trail or path and how that makes the community feel safe or not.
Knowing your neighbors may make you feel unsafe when you see someone tends to yell or what not, like in the example given. Or, if you see their idea of safety is not the same of yours. They don’t shut the gate by their fish pond or something like that and a toddler could wander in (this could happen anywhere of course).
I also have been thinking lately of emotional safety. Some communities have worked hard to create an environment where interpersonal conflicts and group conflicts have a place – they can be discussed and dealt with. Other communities have high stakes and just mentioning a problem could become a bomb explosion. It may not be “safe” to process conflict and most learn to stay quiet.
When I was talking with the county officials about getting a loan into cohousing, one person compared cohousing to a gated community. I was offended. We are not a gated community!!!! But now I wonder, there are some similarities. Everyone wants to feel safe, the trick is finding a balance and definition of what that means in a particular community.
Pros and cons and definition of a gated community: