I Want To Live In A Baugruppe

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.

Desider­ata:

  • 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.

Ob­sta­cles:

  • 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.