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jsteinhardt comments on I Want To Live In A Baugruppe - Less Wrong Discussion

43 Post author: Alicorn 17 March 2017 01:36AM

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Comment author: freyley 17 March 2017 11:10:59AM *  16 points [-]

Cohousing, in the US, is the term of art. I spent a while about a decade ago attempting to build a cohousing community, and it's tremendously hard. In the last few months I've moved, with my kids, into a house on a block with friends with kids, and I can now say that it's tremendously worthwhile.

Cohousings in the US are typically built in one of three ways:

  • Condo buildings, each condo sold as a condominium
  • Condo/apartment buildings, each apartment sold as a coop share
  • Separate houses.

The third one doesn't really work in major cities unless you get tremendously lucky.

The major problem with the first plan is, due to the Fair Housing Act in the 1960s, which was passed because at the time realtors literally would not show black people houses in white neighborhoods, you cannot pick your buyers. Any attempt to enforce rationalists moving in is illegal. Cohousings get around this by having voluntary things, but also by accepting that they'll get freeriders and have to live with it. Some cohousings I know of have had major problems with investors deciding cohousing is a good investment, buying condos, and renting them to whoever while they wait for the community to make their investment more valuable.

The major problem with the coop share approach is that, outside of New York City, it's tremendously hard to get a loan to buy a coop share. Very few banks do these, and usually at terrible interest rates.

Some places have gotten around this by having a rich benefactor who buys a big building and rents it, but individuals lose out on the financial benefits of homeownership. In addition, it is probably also illegal under the Fair Housing Act to choose your renters if there are separate units.

The other difficulties with cohousing are largely around community building, which you've probably seen plenty of with rationalist houses, so I won't belabor the point on that.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 20 March 2017 02:31:47AM 2 points [-]

Any attempt to enforce rationalists moving in is illegal.

Is this really true? Based on my experience (not any legal experience, just seeing what people generally do that is considered fine) I think in the Bay Area the following are all okay:

  • Only listing a house to your friends / social circle.
  • Interviewing people who want to live with you and deciding based on how much you like them.

The following are not okay:

  • Having a rule against pets that doesn't have an exception for seeing-eye dogs.
  • Explicitly deciding not to take someone as a house-mate only on the basis of some protected trait like race, etc. (but gender seems to be fine?).
Comment author: Douglas_Knight 20 March 2017 07:07:23PM 2 points [-]

Your experience is probably about controlling who lives in a single household. Freyley's comment was about his "first plan," ie, condos, which is pretty much what Alicorn was talking about. The issue is about scaling up from a single apartment to a building or neighborhood.

But, yes, it is important to pay attention to what is fine in practice, which is often quite different from the law, in both directions.

Comment author: Viliam 20 March 2017 10:09:54AM *  0 points [-]

It would probably be reasonable to pay a lawyer for providing a definite answer and a list of legal strategies.

I mean, my first reaction after reading about the Fair Housing Act was "nah, that cannot really be a problem, I am sure there are dozen simple ways how to circumvent this". But then the second thought was "...and this is probably the same thing those people in 1960s (and later) who didn't want black people in their neighborhood were thinking too... so there were probably already decades of legal battles with various strategies and counter-strategies, and it would be foolish to just do five minutes of armchair reasoning and pretend that I know better than all those people who did it for a job, and whose profits depended on it."

(An example of a simple strategy I imagined: Could all people interested in living there create a cooperative enterprise, buy the whole area as a company, and then sell or rent it to their members? Because while you are in the company mode, it seems legal to buy "all or nothing"; and when selling or renting to the members, you simply won't advertise the fact that you are selling or renting. -- Sounds reasonable to me, and I don't see how this would be a problem... other than that someone probably already tried this to create a white-only neighborhood, and I don't know what happened afterwards.)

Comment author: Lumifer 20 March 2017 02:33:49PM 1 point [-]

There is also that thing that the US is now more of a regulatory state and less of a place with the rule of law.

Comment author: RedMan 20 March 2017 12:47:34PM *  1 point [-]

Your corporate plan would likely work. White nationalist Craig Cobb attempted to purchase large tracts of land in Leith, ND with the express purpose of providing them exclusively to white nationalists. Some aspect of this plan appeared to get him around the Fair Housing Act.

I believe he was run out of town along with his little club, so the best advice would be basically 'avoid advertising outside of rationalist circles', and don't antagonize your non rationalist neighbors.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 20 March 2017 07:12:55PM 0 points [-]

Could all people interested in living there create a cooperative enterprise

Freyley listed this second and said that its major problem is financing, not FHA, implying that this scheme is at least some protection.