Affordability, Good Questions, and Repair

Advocates for Sociocracy in Intentional Communities had its March gathering recently. Fourteen people from twelve communities joined to support each other. We broke into three small groups to ask questions and gather ideas. Here’s what came up for one of the groups.

We are a forming cohousing community facing housing cost uncertainty, Some community members are losing their ability to afford cohousing. What can we do to support each other?

  • Talk: The community could benefit from talking about the loss that comes with affordability issues and income disparity.

  • Beyond costs, there is the matter of community connection. How does the group define community? Can someone be a community member without being a resident?
    Thinking systemically, what can the community do to create more equity in their region and generally?

  • Renting: At The Commons on the Alameda, for example, individual homes also have rentable units with private entries. Find out more here.

  • Coop model: Community members pay into the community, helping with monthly costs.

  • Income sharing: Pooling resources to support everyone.

  • Investor donation: At Proud Ground Land Trust investors donate homes as permanently affordable. Find out more about Proud Ground here.

  • Home sharing: In some communities, older people with homes share their space with students without places to stay, entering into a mutually supporting partnership.
    Planning ahead for home sharing, homes can be designed with kitchens and living spaces at the center and bedrooms on off to the sides for more privacy.

  • Partner with local governments who want to support affordable housing: Upper Langley Cohousing negotiated with their town council for experimental zoning. Small parcels could be purchased by people who met the income requirement. Find more about Upper Langley Cohousing here.
    (Governments/townships can add to cost or ease cost!)

  • Affordability as a priority from the start: That can mean alternatives to individual homes, like dormitory-style spaces where several households share a kitchen and living area. Would retrofitting existing spaces be less expensive than building new?

We are revising our workshare policy and want to gather input from community members.
What are some good questions to ask?

When thinking about the workshare policy….

  • What values do you want to uphold?
  • What matters most to you?
  • What are your stories around work and your work history?
  • What are you doing now? How do you feel about the work you’re doing?
  • What support do you need to do more/less/something different?
  • What invites you? Without anything in the way, how would you like to contribute?
  • What’s your favorite workshare task?

Overall, notice how you formulate questions, aiming for invitation and possibility.
Note that some questions may feel more welcome in small groups or pairs versus big meetings.

What are some ways to repair connections after a community-wide conflict?

  • Talk about the elephant in the room!
  • Make space to hear each person’s feelings, needs and requests. Find more about NVC here.
  • Consider reflective listening or restorative circles. Find more about restorative practices here.

Do you have more ideas? Please share.

Thanks to everyone who joined our March gathering. Hoping to see you at the next one, April 10th.
Are you new to Advocates and interested in joining? Write to

1 Like

I have to admit that after decades of volunteering for non-profit organizations that point to NVC as a useful tool for enhancing positive relating, and almost 15 years of living in a cohousing project that also references NVC–I have never experienced strong culturally-based integration of NVC in group process. Does anyone have a good story about effective and wide-spread use of NVC in a cooperative organization or community? I’d love to hear it!

Here I am replying to myself…my question promoted me to look deeper into my own experience. I revisited the original post and clicked on the links to information about restorative circles. There I found what I was looking for–an authentic story of success in using a dimension of NVC–one that told a true story of real people doing the right thing. And…in a school where children were internalizing the values and practices NVC is based on within their daily routine. Maybe my cohort is the problem–older folks tend to stick to what they know. OK…and maybe I need to continue to shine the light of awareness on my own place in the circle. I reviewed the NVC guidelines Hope Wilder so competently wrote about and recommitted to using them.