Radish 4 years later: Coliving → Neighborhood

An unexpected evolution

28 min ago

Radish has room openings starting in February. And an open house this week. Come live with us…

Coliving → Neighborhood

One sad thing about coliving is that people you love move out all the time.

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Sometimes they want more space.
Sometimes they find a partner who isn’t into the scene.
Sometimes they want to own their own home.

But something unexpected started happening at Radish. People would move out … but they would pick a new place on the block (or nearby) so they could still be part of the community

Best of both worlds.
They get the space they want, and we get to keep them in the fold.

The Radish Community has become the Radish Neighborhood. Eight former Radishes have bought or leased homes within walking distance. And we still get to see their beautiful faces at dinner all the time.

The emergent Radish Neighborhood. HQ and Radellites

It started when two former residents decided to buy their own place nearby. They wanted pets (something we couldn’t really accommodate for them at that moment). But they wanted to stay connected and visit the Radish community as often as possible. So they limited their housing search to within walking distance of Radish. And it started a trend. Seven other people or couples have now done the same.

We call them Satellite Radishes or "Radellites." They are the cool kids living off-campus. They are opening up a different kind of coliving proposition. And they are changing how I think about the function of a community like Radish.

What if Radish isn’t a home? What if it’s actually a "third space"?

The first person who helped me see this was Jason Benn. Jason is starting a community in San Francisco aptly named "The Neighborhood." He started with a defined boundary by drawing a walking-distance circle on the map. And some friends put in a third space right in the middle of the circle. It’s a placed-base community where people live within walking distance and supply their own homes.

Jason’s going to soon write a guest post about it (right Jason?!?!).

To me this structure presents both a new way to colive and a new way to actually start a neighborhood. For a long time we’ve let Zillow tell us what a neighborhood is (many of them actually branded by real estate agents). It’s empowering to think that you can create your own quasi-neighborhood within a city.

  • The group of friends are the residents.

  • The third space is the public square.

  • The governance structure is sort of a quasi-HOA

It’s a neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood. Still part of something larger, but also something more specific and approachable.

New things we’ve had to navigate as a Radish Neighborhood

Financial Contribution

As off-campus numbers swelled, there were suddenly a lot more people consuming the community’s resources and a smaller proportion of on-campus folks footing the bill.

In response, we’ve started to think of the communal spaces on our property as more of a membership club with off-campus Radellites chipping in to cover some of the cost.

Both on-campus Radishes and off-campus Radellites are members of this "club." Some of those members (on-campus Radishes) happen to also rent a bed or an apartment, while others (off-campus Radellites) don’t. In theory, both should contribute to the operating of the communal third space.

This prompted a restructuring of our financial system. We now much more explicitly account for the cost of the communal third space (rather than bundling it opaquely into rent).

Contribution from off-campus members can offset people living on-campus (fictitious example for illustration)

This first required us being explicit about how much the communal vs private parts of the property cost. We assigned our communal spaces and private spaces separate "rent" — with the communal spaces being about 20% of the total. And then we added on operating costs like utilities, wifi, cleaners.

On-campus residents pay their private rent. The whole community (on-campus and off-campus) pay communal third space rent.

Since different Radellites use the property at different levels, we asked them to voluntarily name their contributions as a percentage of what an on-campus person contributes. For example, they may say "I’m the equivalent of 1/4 of an on-campus person" and contribute 25% of what an on-campus person contributes into the Third Space and the food costs.

As more off-campus folks contribute, we are able to lower the burden on the on-campus people. And this system allows us to be transparent about the costs to operate the property and who is contributing toward those costs.

Specific Invitations

How do you make off-campus folks actually feel welcome? When should they visit or not visit?

My partner Kristen is a behavioral scientist. And she often makes the point that "come by anytime!" is equivalent to "please don’t come."

A good invitation is SPECIFIC. You want to let people know they are welcome anytime AND they are specifically encouraged to come at XYZ date.

We are playing with an idea of a weekly "Radellites" night where we make an extra specific invitation to off-campus folks to come over.


How do off-campus folks participate in governance and decision-making?

Are they part of all the communication channels?

We are ending up essentially with two levels of governance and two sets of communications channels: One that includes everyone and one that is for on-campus folks. And that the appropriate decision or communication gets sent to wherever relevant. "Come watch the World Cup with me at 2pm" goes to everyone. "Can someone sign for that package at the door?" goes to the on-campus folks only.

Recruiting is a particularly tricky one with a larger group size. It becomes harder to make recruiting decisions as group size increases because not everyone can logistically spend time with a potential recruit. It may not be logistically feasible to have off-campus people participate heavily in recruiting decisions.

Creating a neighborhood without coliving?

A question I’ve been wondering about (inspired by Jason) is whether it’s possible to create a neighborhood without coliving at the center. While you lose the inbuilt energy of people living at HQ, it may be an easier and lower-risk project. You could simply have a third space in the center and encourage people to move in around it. Abracadabra - a place-based community without all the complications of centrally building and managing people’s homes!

This is a topic you’ll likely hear more from me about in the coming months…

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19 min agoLiked by Phil

It sounds like you're describing / evolving into cohousing - neighborhoods with common third spaces and more intensive/democratic governance structures. There's a whole like literature and community around this idea https://www.cohousing.org/.

From my point of view this is probably the ideal living setup for people with pets, kids, etc.

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