warped studies on cohousing?

Here is a study on cohousing and cohousing like places. As I read it I wondered how valid these studies can be. Do they ever talk to the people who left? Those who stay are obviously happy with their community and that’s fine but it doesn’t help the world to try to push cohousing on everybody! And why is it the only solution to loneliness? Cohousing is so hard to afford and get built in the first place, why not put energy into the 99% of housing and neighborhoods and form connections there. Plus, running a building is not always community building – the disputes can tear people apart.


About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
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12 Responses to warped studies on cohousing?

  1. Flower says:

    Do they ever talk to the people who left? Precisely. Straight talk and hard figures are difficult to find about cohousing.

    “People involved in community-led housing are significantly less likely to feel lonely than people living in more conventional homes and neighbourhoods, according to a new report.”

    Loneliness is a consistent theme in articles and in the marketing of cohousing. Likewise language comparing cohousing to “conventional homes and neighborhoods” with subtle and not so subtle disparaging comments is a consistent theme as well.

    I was just reading a study the other day that there was an uptick in loneliness which was connected with the use of Iphones and the Internet. In fact there’s quite a few studies that make that connection. I do agree that there are plenty of other options and solutions to loneliness.

    “It also found that residents were more likely to trust their neighbours. This trust emerged over time – a ‘slow build-up of a history of kindness’ as one resident put it – creating long-term supportive relationships.”

    It’s no secret that trust is earned over time. I’m certain if they studied neighborhoods where there wasn’t a huge turnover and people stayed in their communities a long time that it would show similar results when it came to trust. If you rent and don’t stay in a place very long and are not invested in the property or community then how can you build those connections.

    I’ve lived in the same place for quite awhile and I would not go so far as to say that I trust all of my neighbors. I’ve experienced issues with some of them which created a lack of trust. I would say that some are a “known entity” which new residents moving in are not.

  2. CJ says:

    You nailed it. I would love to see some scientific research. A quick survey to cohousing every year would suffice. How many units are there? How long have they lived there? Did anyone leave this year? Why? Anyone move in? Simple and then over the years, they’d have real information. In fact, loneliness research has some interesting results. Apparently Senior Citizens feared much better during quarantine than younger people and felt less lonely. That’s what I saw – younger generations don’t have the same skills of relying on neighbors, friends, religious institutions, and communities probably because the Internet and phones, but trying to learn social skills in cohousing can be a disaster. And, same with cohousing, you get to know your neighbors – including which ones are trustworthy and which aren’t.

    • Flower says:

      Trustworthiness and how one builds that is an interesting subject on its own. I read on some site about shirttail aunties (a term I was unfamiliar with). Now maybe I don’t want to perform that role as a neighbor. Maybe I have no interest for a host of reasons and maybe I don’t feel that I owe anyone a reason. That doesn’t make me untrustworthy. It does make me someone who doesn’t want to perform in a role. Let’s say someone wants that, but I don’t want to provide that or be their source of supply. That doesn’t mean that I’m a “bad” person nor does it mean that I’m untrustworthy. It means that I don’t want to perform in that role or function. Despite that people personalize situations and many have expectations about how other people should behave or perform in certain roles. And that may not mesh with how the other person experiences not only themselves, but also the situation. Maybe they have their own ideas, desires, wants and needs. The fact is some people have very poor boundaries and see others as a useful tool to meet their ends. Many have their ideas and wants and behave in careless destructives ways, by ignoring boundaries or by trying to push their agendas on others and behave in disrespectful ways if they don’t get their way.

      I had an alcoholic neighbor who was a manipulator and user and another one who has manipulative behaviors as well. It tainted the relationship, created distance and as a result I keep my distance. Initially I was friendly. I suppose you could say that their behaviors instilled distrust and I spent a lot of time avoiding interactions with them because of how unpleasant and miserable they were. In close proximity those behaviors cause stress. I’ve soured on “neighborliness” for a host of reasons.

    • Flower says:

      “That’s what I saw – younger generations don’t have the same skills of relying on neighbors, friends, religious institutions, and communities probably because the Internet and phones, but trying to learn social skills in cohousing can be a disaster.”

      There are many studies that link internet use to narcissism. Social media usage it seems would certainly limit their social skills and expectations of others. I do agree that some scientific research and hard facts, instead of all the feel good pablum about cohousing would be beneficial and useful.

      In the cohousing marketing and articles they bang on and on about loneliness and seniors, so it doesn’t appear that the writers have seen the same studies about the older generations faring better or feeling less lonely during quarantine. I did see studies saying that introverts fared better. I would suggest that self-reliant people probably fared better overall and perhaps introverts fall into that group. I’m certain that doesn’t mean that they don’t experience bouts of loneliness from time to time. Maybe they just have a better ability to problem-solve.

      Your last line, “…but trying to learn social skills in cohousing can be a disaster,” is interesting. Is that something that you’ve elaborated on?

  3. Flower says:

    “In fact, loneliness research has some interesting results.” I know it does as I’ve researched the topic.

    I got to talking with a professional dog walker in my neighborhood. I broke the ice and told her that I liked her hat and then the conversation turned to talking about current events “politics”. Her observation was that she felt that many of the problems stemmed from 90’s parenting. I also know that she’s not the only person to observe that or the rise in narcissism and how that relates to technology or the rise in suicides.

    I read about community–a term that is used everywhere by companies, etc., A consistent theme I tend to see is people complaining about the “lack of community” and in the case of cohousing how horrible the suburbs are as if they’re soul sucking places lacking in “community”. Yet how do these people define community and that could be a very long topic.

    I will say that I watch people and see them always on their phones. I’ve observed them not watching anything around them or even traffic. They just walk out not even looking around them, but focused on their phones. I see the same in my neighborhood parent’s pushing strollers or with their kids and on their phones the entire time. It doesn’t appear that they are even remotely engaged in the world around them. And as the dogwalker noted “online” is their community. It’s certainly not the people that live in their neighborhood who they probably don’t even bother to speak to unless they want something from you.

  4. Flower says:

    Another valid concern about studies is the same with any product such as the critiques of pharmaceutical companies and that is who funds them? Just because there is a PhD (at my school it was know as piled higher and deeper) in the name or a “vaunted” institution doesn’t mean that the studies don’t have issues. Likewise there is confirmation bias which I’m certain you’ve heard of. Alleged “experts” are often wrong, stats are easily manipulated and research/studies leave a lot to be desired.

  5. CJ says:

    I agree with that about the 90s and all the awards for existing! And I do see that loss of connection. I wonder how it changes kids like at college campuses where I don’t see them saying hi to each other and interacting like I did (even though it was always awkward passing by a professor). And that’s true about studies, I guess there’s no way to prove the claims of cohousing. It comes down to people’s experiences and for me and this blog (which started out just to document my experience and then went south as my experience did).

  6. CJ says:

    Good question about elaborating on learning social skills in cohousing. What I meant was it’d be nice if people already had some of those skills ahead of time but another marketing point is how you will grow as a person and learn better communication skills. That’s the goal, the reality can be much different. I like also what you said about trust. I hadn’t expanded it much beyond how hard it is to work together to manage a cohousing place when trust is broken. In most HOAs and Condos you vote for a president and a board and let them do it (not that that is perfect or easy either), but in Coho it’s done together so if they lose your trust on one issue, it’s hard not to bring those bad feelings into business meetings. For example, I have a hard time trusting where I live because of lack of transparency about things and how long it takes for any decision so things deteriorate like repairs that need to be done. If I choose to live there I would have worked on communication and all about this but they didn’t seem to want to grow or figure out ways to get along, so I left. Now I know that it’s still an issue since so many others are jumping ship too. I was just the first to do it.

    • Flower says:

      Transparency like trust is an interesting subject on its own and a huge topic.

      You responded to a comment I made about how long it takes to get something done in a community driven by consensus. Some things come down to individual experience, so when I hear that it can take two years to get repairs done it strikes me as a huge red flag. My concern would be that if it takes that long to get anything done then how would community members respond to something that I saw was more urgent. Would they ignore it and sweep it under the carpet or pretend that it didn’t exist or dismiss my concerns.

      I’ve already experienced destructive behaviors like this in real life and it destroys relationships, and isn’t community purportedly about relationship building. Which brings me to another point and that is if the marketing articles and materials highlight benefits as “free babysitting” to cite one example then it probably will attract people seeking that benefit. And people with their sights set on obtaining “free stuff” or “benefits” are not seeking to build community they are seeking free labor and to benefit themselves at the expense of other people and that’s a good way to destroy community, not build it.

  7. Flower says:

    “Good question about elaborating on learning social skills in cohousing. What I meant was it’d be nice if people already had some of those skills ahead of time but another marketing point is how you will grow as a person and learn better communication skills.”

    I think I’ve seen that and it’s a broad statement and I immediately question generalizations like that. Emotional growth isn’t easily defined nor is it a goal for everyone. It can also be a slow and painstaking process. You could use the example of the woman who dreamed of a cohousing community and thought it would help her lack of “outgoingness” and she lost her savings–the different reality that you speak of. One could argue that her experience was/is a painful growth process, even if she may not fully process it that way. And people process painful growth experiences much like they do grief, especially if it was a dream or belief, which can be a slow process given the severity and their emotional makeup.

    Likewise emotional growth can take place outside of a cohousing community. There are all kinds of lessons to absorb and contemplate even in “lackluster” and “disparaged” suburbia. One has to expand their field of vision while engaging in the introspective process. A lot of people are unwilling to do that.

    I’ve known of people who move because of restrictive HOA’s and likewise there have been stories about lawsuits as well.

    I tend to question everything. That is just me and people don’t take kindly to it, despite what they say. They try to label me as a troublemaker which for me is another reason why I don’t like group think. I tend to reference it as “group stink”. Even what you write brings up a lot of questions, but I don’t write them all or elaborate.

  8. CJ says:

    That’s a great point. I never thought how it may attract people looking for the freebies instead of looking to help others and vice versa.
    Question everything is a great trait. I wish I had it. I also will use your phrase Group Stink now.
    My problem is I’ve always been naive until proven otherwise. I believed in people. I believed in the Conflict Management Team until I did act on an urgent issue and the community burned me on it. They prefer to put things under the rug and I didn’t get the hint. Yet, I do think about that too – sure I did have personal growth but it was a negative experience. Brought me to a great place now – I”m writing a lot and have finished a play, two movies, a screenplay, and enjoy blogging. Plus I live at my real dream home – at the beach! I only worry about when/if I will trust people again. Maybe I will just cautiously look at groups and how they really behave.
    Thanks for all your questions and input! I hope others read it.

    • Flower says:

      Thank you CJ. I like to write as you do, but I’m rusty as I’m out practice. I do a great deal of research as well. It’s good that you’re in a better place. I’m cautious with groups because of my past experiences. I can’t think of group situations that I’ve experienced as beneficial. In fact, my experiences are the opposite–the dynamics can turn toxic. It fostered a strong aversion to groups of any kind and it has contributed to my interest in psychology, group dynamics, cults, etc. I’ve been told that I’m a very strong person and resilient–the result of harsh situations.

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