The Cohousing Tax

Reposted from MidAtlantic Cohousing

“Happily Ever Aftering in Cohousing: A Handbook for Community Living” is a slim book that packs a big message. (The title is almost longer than the total word count of the book!)

Written by Charles (a.k.a Chuck) Durrett with Bernice Gonzalez and Erik Bonnett of McCamant & Durrett Architects, the book compiles best practices for living in cohousing.

This is the second most important book those in cohousing should read. Whether you are just starting your cohousing adventure, a member of a forming, building or built community this is THE book to read. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest with a very understated declaration:


The introduction alone is the single best constructed argument of why do cohousing in the first place posing the singular question: “If it doesn’t work socially, why bother?”

In the book, Chuck and company describe four areas of best practices for insuring a healthy, working, collaborative community:

Common Dinners


We will look at these topic areas in a future posting.

Today, let’s begin at the very end with …

The Cohousing Tax

The dictionary defines a tax as “a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc.”

Who wants to pay taxes? Who ever thought there was a tax to pay in cohousing?

So what is “The Cohousing Tax?” Here is Chuck’s description:

We all have to pay taxes to government, that’s a given. Cohousing is no different. The cohousing tax is what we pay to receive all the gifts we get day after day, big and small. …Every day it seems I receive 20 to 40 warm smiles… However, every month or so I get a frown.

Some days you’re awesome and once in a while you’re ridiculous. Oh well, that’s the community (cohousing) tax.
… the occasional frown is a small price to pay to have someone teach my child how to sing; for common dinners four or five nights a week; for being able to borrow a car occasionally; to taste great homemade beer, great homemade sauces and homemade cookies, and to enjoy the wonderful conversations that become richer and deeper by the year as I get to know my neighbors better and better.

I, too, believe the occasional frown is a small price to pay.

However, in some communities and maybe even most communities, the cohousing tax exceeds an “occasional” frown. Sometimes the cohousing tax is fraught with downright upset, conflict, hurt feelings, frustration and confusion. On balance, this may be a small tax to pay for the rich life found in a cohousing community where living is by far more than something “homemade.”

Sometimes the cohousing tax is great and sometime small. It’s the love, labor and time I commit every day to this investment called community.

It’s staying up with neighbors long nights grieving the loss of a child, spouse or parent.

It’s connecting across sometimes serious differences to find common ground on which to move the community forward.

It’s rallying around and supporting projects that seem completely out of reach financially and logistically.

It’s celebrating the rounds of birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones making each one new.

For this investment I get triple digit returns.

Let’s not forget that sometimes the cohousing tax is too much for some folks and they choose to leave. When too many people leave perhaps it’s time to revisit the tax code!

So far, for me, the gifts of community living in Takoma Village in Washington, DC far outweigh the cohousing tax.

We run surplus revenue not deficit spending. But not everyone would agree. It’s not for everyone. People do move away.

Chuck is fond of saying at every opportunity that living in cohousing is “easy.”

It is not “easy.”

It’s hard.

But it is, oh, so much richer, far more dimensional, and a more integrated way of living.

Read this book.

Start with the ending.

It will put into perspective the “taxes paid” to live in cohousing.

Category: Books

Tags: Connecting, living in cohousing, Resources

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