Book review on Condominium history

High Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century

by  Michale Gordon Lasner

I read the book and liked learning the history of condos. It seems similar ideas to cohousing were part of condominiums’ history. Here are the quotes I liked.

“People identify closely, personally, and intensely with their homes and choosing one can be as highly personal complex, and arbitrary as finding a mate” (p 16

No wonder  it feels like divorce when one leaves cohousing because it was a house and a group of people.

On page 26  the author wrote about the marketing of real estate:

“Real estate business is interpreted only by self serving real estate brokers..while newspapers all had competent writers on financial matters, few well informed impartial real estate angles are in evidence.  News and comment are based on everlasting optimistic press releases by real estate brokers and developers with a financial stake in optimism.”  

He  was actually  quoting Charles Abrams from the 1940s but the same is true today. There are so many puff pieces about cohousing. Few pieces ever do a true journalistic investigation. I can’t wait for the day when a reporter contacts me for my experience and how I feel for all the good news I had heard. I’ve reached out to podcasters and newspaper writers but that’s been after the fact. Please, spread the word!!!!  I’m hear – loud and ashamed for falling for cohousing!

On page 43 , the author talks about Hubert and his co op idea. Some thought of it as  utopian but he wanted the relationships to be strictly business and a critique of NYC housing, not some social movement. And being exclusive helped make the property more valuable.

Very interesting. He was onto something.

On Page 150 one group found that people bought condos/coops to have playmates for their children who aren’t delinquents and there were tight knit groups but homogeneous.

Page 186

Condos have problems – dependent on compliance.  You  can sue the owner but there are no rights to remove anyone. Physical decay is also a problem … doing special assessments is hard on people with fixed incomes.

A cohousing can be difficult if no one follows the agreements and looks like they take longer to do any maintenance of the buildings than most condos.

On page 197

Condo owners are not used to being managers but apathy is rare.  It is hard to run the condo.

Same with cohousing.

Page 205

A Sociologist said townhomes in 70s would end loneliness, smaller houses, less insolation than suburbia

A familiar story to cohousing!

Page 240

Some thought  townhomes have lack of privacy, but that fear was wrong and residents found a utopia.  Didn’t have to drive to play dates or shovel snow or do lawns

So some loved their condos, just as some like their cohos. Or, I would argue, just live in a regular condo or HOA and not the added work of a coho.

Page 277

The results versus the promises that were promoted about condo living::

Self governance was impossible. People fought.

Even with a management company, the condos were  insecure with bad economies. It can ruin the middle class.

Collective homeownership sold to a public unwilling to do mutual obligations

The places didn’t always pay for upkeep

Sold as carefree living without the self-government responsibilities being emphasized – not married to lawnmower. they had traded maintenance responsibilities for obligations to a community governing process which violates the idea of private property

Read the book!  Very interesting and lots of pictures.

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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