Courtney E. Martin has lived in cohousing for three years and sees it as the solution to a whole host of problems, but it’s a solution that has problems of its own.
Martin is a believer in the benefits of cohousing. Although cohousing communities vary greatly — some are multi-generational, for example, while others focus on seniors; some are religiously inspired, others are secular — she notes:
most groups hold in common a belief that a high quality of life is achieved not through self-sufficiency, but through a village mentality.
So why hasn’t the movement had greater impact? In an article for the New York Times, Martin cites lack of awareness and financing as two factors limiting the spread of cohousing.
She’s right, of course, but I would argue that a third factor is far greater. It’s the flip side of the quote highlighted above. It’s the cultural assumption that independence or self-sufficiency are virtues of such enormous importance that the interdependence of “a village mentality” is something to be avoided, or perhaps even ashamed of.
Awareness and financial barriers can be overcome with a little persistence. Changing our mindset takes longer.