Rationalists like to live in group houses.  We are also as a subculture moving more and more into a child-having phase of our lives.  These things don't cooperate super well - I live in a four bedroom house because we like having roommates and guests, but if we have three kids and don't make them share we will in a few years have no spare rooms at all.  This is frustrating in part because amenable roommates are incredibly useful as alloparents if you value things like "going to the bathroom unaccompanied" and "eating food without being screamed at", neither of which are reasonable "get a friend to drive for ten minutes to spell me" situations.  Meanwhile there are also people we like living around who don't want to cohabit with a small child, which is completely reasonable, small children are not for everyone.

For this and other complaints ("househunting sucks", "I can't drive and need private space but want friends accessible", whatever) the ideal solution seems to be somewhere along the spectrum between "a street with a lot of rationalists living on it" (no rationalist-friendly entity controls all those houses and it's easy for minor fluctuations to wreck the intentional community thing) and "a dorm" (sorta hard to get access to those once you're out of college, usually not enough kitchens or space for adult life).  There's a name for a thing halfway between those, at least in German - "baugruppe" - buuuuut this would require community or sympathetic-individual control of a space and the money to convert it if it's not already baugruppe-shaped.

Maybe if I complain about this in public a millionaire will step forward or we'll be able to come up with a coherent enough vision to crowdfund it or something.  I think there is easily enough demand for a couple of ten-to-twenty-adult baugruppen (one in the east bay and one in the south bay) or even more/larger, if the structures materialized.  Here are some bulleted lists.


  • Units that it is really easy for people to communicate across and flow between during the day - to my mind this would be ideally to the point where a family who had more kids than fit in their unit could move the older ones into a kid unit with some friends for permanent sleepover, but still easily supervise them.  The units can be smaller and more modular the more this desideratum is accomplished.
  • A pricing structure such that the gamut of rationalist financial situations (including but not limited to rent-payment-constraining things like "impoverished app academy student", "frugal Google engineer effective altruist", "NEET with a Patreon", "CfAR staffperson", "not-even-ramen-profitable entrepreneur", etc.) could live there.  One thing I really like about my house is that Spouse can pay for it himself and would by default anyway, and we can evaluate roommates solely on their charming company (or contribution to childcare) even if their financial situation is "no".  However, this does require some serious participation from people whose financial situation is "yes" and a way to balance the two so arbitrary numbers of charity cases don't bankrupt the project.
  • Variance in amenities suited to a mix of Soylent-eating restaurant-going takeout-ordering folks who only need a fridge and a microwave and maybe a dishwasher, and neighbors who are not that, ideally such that it's easy for the latter to feed neighbors as convenient.
  • Some arrangement to get repairs done, ideally some compromise between "you can't do anything to your living space, even paint your bedroom, because you don't own the place and the landlord doesn't trust you" and "you have to personally know how to fix a toilet".
  • I bet if this were pulled off at all it would be pretty easy to have car-sharing bundled in, like in Benton House That Was which had several people's personal cars more or less borrowable at will.  (Benton House That Was may be considered a sort of proof of concept of "20 rationalists living together" but I am imagining fewer bunk beds in the baugruppe.)  Other things that could be shared include longish-term storage and irregularly used appliances.
  • Dispute resolution plans and resident- and guest-vetting plans which thread the needle between "have to ask a dozen people before you let your brother crash on the couch, let alone a guest unit" and "cannot expel missing stairs".  I think there are some rationalist community Facebook groups that have medium-trust networks of the right caution level and experiment with ways to maintain them.


  • Bikeshedding.  Not that it isn't reasonable to bikeshed a little about a would-be permanent community edifice that you can't benefit from or won't benefit from much unless it has X trait - I sympathize with this entirely - but too much from too many corners means no baugruppen go up at all even if everything goes well, and that's already dicey enough, so please think hard on how necessary it is for the place to be blue or whatever.
  • Location.  The only really viable place to do this for rationalist population critical mass is the Bay Area, which has, uh, problems, with new construction.  Existing structures are likely to be unsuited to the project both architecturally and zoningwise, although I would not be wholly pessimistic about one of those little two-story hotels with rooms that open to the outdoors or something like that.
  • Principal-agent problems.  I do not know how to build a dormpartment building and probably neither do you.
  • Community norm development with buy-in and a good match for typical conscientiousness levels even though we are rules-lawyery contrarians.

Please share this wherever rationalists may be looking; it's definitely the sort of thing better done with more eyes on it.

Moderation Guidelinesexpand_more

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.

The cohousing conference ( http://www.cohousing.org/2017 ) is a great place to get questions answered and learn from the folks who've been doing this for a while. The Bay Area definitely has a handful of solid cohousings, and often they give tours and talk to folks who are interested in setting them up.

(I'm happy to talk about this further, but may well lose track of this thread. feel free to email me or catch me on the slack.)

There are a handful of developers who specialize in building cohousings so that folks interested in living in one can focus on building community and then all moving in together. In Portland one of the longer persisting ones is Orange Splot. http://www.orangesplot.net/ I'm sure there are Bay Area ones, and it's possible the folks at Orange Splot know them. I'd expect they'd also show up at the Cohousing Conference.

Doing both community development and building development is, of course, three times as hard as just doing the community development part and moving in to a building that someone else prepares for you.

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?).

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

The Wikipedia summary of the Fair Housing Act says: "The Fair Housing Act is a federal act in the United States intended to protect the buyer or renter of a dwelling from seller or landlord discrimination. Its primary prohibition makes it unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with any person because of that person's inclusion in a protected class."

Not being a rationalist doesn't seem like a protected class.

On the legality of selecting your buyers: What if you simply had a HOA (or equivelent) with high dues, that did rationalist-y things with the dues? Is that legal, and do you think it would provide a relevant selection effect?

If you like this idea but have nothing much to say please comment under this comment so there can be a record of interested parties.

I am ecstatic about this idea and would participate in it at a good deal of personal inconvenience.

How around is around, and can you say more about what about a baugruppe would satisfy your desiderata that the existing group house network can't?

I desperately want something like this, so long as it is anywhere other than the bay area. god help me, I will avoid living there if it means being as socially isolated as I currently am forever

interested, living in Hamburg, Germany and trying to buy/rent more houses in my municipality for purposes like this at least in longer timeframe. I used to have a page here where I advertised community space but was never approached. I guess it's partly a coordination problem.

Very interested, but not willing to move more than 2-3 hours away; am nowhere near CA.

I'm interested, and have been thinking for a while of how to structure it and where to put it / what properties to focus on (in Berkeley, at least). I think there's a pretty strong chance we can build a rationalist village or two (or three or...).

I'm interested in theory, but in practice I am attached to living in SF proper that may be hard to overcome.

I'll mention that in South Bay there are housing complexes that have multiple nearly-adjacent units in shared space, and it might work well to just pick such a complex and progressively have like-minded people take over more and more of it. Noticeably less awesome, but also noticeably easier.

I believe this is what happened with Godric's Hollow--a four unit building turned, one by one, into a four unit rationalist building.

I think this was helped along substantially by personal acquaintance with and HPMOR fandom of the landlord, which seems hard to replicate on purpose.

My understanding is that most landlords want the friends of their good tenants to move in, because they'll likely be equally good and also living near friends will make people less likely to move out.

i am not a Known Agent around here but something like this is definitely on my goal list.

I want this, but somewhere like Appalachia where land and such is insanely cheap and you can do some homesteading too

Would move into one if it was where I wanted to live, but I'm tied to Canberra for the next couple of years. If Melbourne did this I'd be really tempted.

I have a secret desire for this to become real which I fear may destroy me and/or everything I know.

Am very interested in this in various ways, whether as a participant or as a consultant to the challenge of how to effectively live together (something I've been studying extensively for the last few years). Not actually currently able to move to the states easily, so there's that.

I am really interested in this and would be likely to want to move into such a place if it existed anywhere in the Bay Area in the next few years.

Would be interested if I lived in a place amenable to this. Seconding dropspindle's recommendation of Appalachia, since that's where I'm already planning to move if I can get a remote job.

It may be worth looking to see whether there are any large, relatively inexpensive houses near major cities that could be converted. There are a lot of McMansion developments in the suburbs north of DC that have never looked particularly inhabited.

relatively inexpensive houses near major cities

Oh, there are a lot of them. Are you prepared to live in a 90% black community?

I'm interested. I'm moving to the bay (work in MTV) in August. (I'm also interested in group houses and like kids, so if there's a shortage of grouphouse pro-kids people I totally have comparative advantage there).

I'm a 19-year-old Canadian at the moment and therefore can't realistically contribute, but this is exactly how I want to live and I would totally move to the Bay Area just for this.

Not in the US and have no friends in the rationalist community, but I would consider moving to Bay (in some years) just for the sake of living in such a baugruppe

Absolutely. I've been looking into the different places looking to do something like this (like the Accelerator Project). Would definitely be interested in any similar things going on

i like the idea of living in ingroupy housing (insofar as i am correctly understanding it as also being suitable for people with low socialization satiety thresholds)

I would be interested but am not strongly socially connected to many rationalists in person so I would feel weird about living with them right away.

Absolutely, would move immediately. Inconveniently I am currently at the "impoverished App Academy student" level.