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Cohousing Professionals as 'Middle-Agents': Perspectives from the UK, USA and the Netherlands

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This article explores the role of cohousing professionals in three countries (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States) where the relevance of this form of collaborative dwelling has grown. Cohousing initiators everywhere have to hire technical consultants such as financial and legal advisers and traditional project managers. These 'experts' or 'professionals' may, however, be insufficiently equipped to deal with the development particularities of cohousing which require the ability to move between, and translate, knowledge of different kinds. In response to this, a new type of cohousing specialist such as group-facilitators, process-management and legal coop-specialists is emerging, but the specificity and implications of their roles has gone largely unstudied. Drawing on interviews and fieldwork across the three countries, we explore the roles and dynamics, as well as the paradoxes faced by this varied professional sector. We argue that professionals are 'middle agents' who must negotiate their way between niche and mainstream housing landscapes, and that cohousing professionalization is taking place in a way that can potentially transform both grassroots and mainstream housing provision. Based on this, the conclusions recommend a shift in higher education and specialist training.
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Keywords: COHOUSING; CONSULTANTS; INSTITUTIONALIZATION; MIDDLE AGENTS; PROFESSIONALS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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