I often write about communities gathering monthly to brainstorm for solutions, particularly housing, that can lead to easier lives. A reader responded to Bungalow with a shared kitchen – a true story asking:
I’m interested in the formal aspects of relationships among house-sharers. If one person is a homeowner, does a landlord/tenant relationship exist? Are there explicit rights and responsibilities for both parties? Is the homeowner’s insurance policy involved in any way? If the shared property is rented, is there a lease/sublease arrangement? What about landlord’s permission and local zoning? How are people referred to one another? What about “ground rules”? I’m obviously just scratching the surface here, but these are practical questions. TE, You’re making us think.
These are important questions that must be worked through household by household. These four principles may serve as logical, fundamental trail markers.
1) Housemates must be compatible. This sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? More easily said than done. It takes time, judgment and discernment. I anticipate that as communities gather month after month, affinity groups will naturally form. If a group is considering house-sharing, socializing together in a variety of situations and settings will help. Potluck at each others’ houses. Ask for help and see what comes forth.See if offers of help are accepted or rebuffed.
The field of organizational development (OD) could make an important contribution in the area of household formation. This profession trains corporate employees to function at a high level. If corporate employees, who work in an environment in which deception and treachery are not unheard of, can learn the skills to work better together, surely the principles could apply to households as well. If an affinity group is interested in living together, talking with an OD expert in the early stages may set the stage for a smoother experience by facilitating compatibility selection, helping to think through and establish ground rules. A harmonious beginning sets the stage for later success.
2) All adults are equal with no landlord/tenant mind set. Ideally, either all adults own a share of a limited liability corporation which owns the property or all adults rent from a landlord who is aware of and approves the arrangement. One person considering it “their” house or apartment is a set up for hierarchical attitudes and resentment.
3) The dwelling itself must be suitable, i.e. large enough. Each person needs to have their own space and the freedom to retreat to it, with their privacy inviolable.
4) There must be a commitment to making it work. Living with others is not for everyone and certainly not for those who need to tightly control their environment. Living with a controlling person is exhausting. This is one area, except for cleanliness, where less is definitely more.
Some people seem committed to being miserable. When considering housemates, do yourself a favor and align with people who are committed to being happy.
Better for children
When you consider that one million school children are homeless this year, inter-generational house sharing seems not just logical but imperative. If I were a single parent, living in a single parent home would be my last choice. I would find other single moms, single dads, or surrogate grandparents, aunts or uncles so that my child could go home to people that we all liked, trusted and respected. I would want them to have a nourishing, home cooked meal complete with home baked cookies followed by homework supervision.
Better for seniors
If I were a senior citizen, I would want to live in a lively household filled with people, pets, music and the aroma of good food. A person aging and needing extra care is the natural trajectory of life. If enough people live in the home to provide the care, and a spare bedroom is available for round the clock nursing, if necessary, why age in a retirement facility or a nursing home? It seems that people end their years in those places because so many adults are out of the house working. If skilled nursing care is needed, loads of trained nurses live in every community. Many of whom no longer work in hospitals because the working conditions haven’t been able to keep them. It seems logical to age at home and have a neighborhood nurse come in for skilled care.
This is not rocket science
Humans, multi-faceted as we are, can be the polar opposite of thousands of others. Successfully living with others can be tricky but it is not rocket science. The foundation is courtesy, respect and thoughtfulness. Living alone and living with others both have advantages and disadvantages. As the economic collapse continues with no end in sight, many will consider their housing options. We are witnessing a big shake up, the likes of which we have never seen. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that 4 million mortgages are either in foreclosure or 90 days past due. Joining forces gives us a much better shot at coming through this strong, heealthy and whole. Nevertheless, there is a bright light on the horizon and it is each of us.