I’m writing this post for your friends, the ones whose concept of cohousing is vague or even doubtful. Please forward this to them, or at least mention it in casual conversation.
It saddens me to see the truth about cohousing remain hidden or misunderstood, when it’s succeeded so well in communities across the country– and in Canada, Ireland, England, Denmark (where it began), and many other places! In the U.S. there are about 130 already inhabited and close to an equal number involved in the planning and construction stages.
Cohousing has succeeded by making it easier to know your neighbors, easier to share a meal, easier to create and maintain a safe place for kids to run out and play without making a date, getting in a car, or having to watch out for cars. Cohousing has made it easier to share an orchard, chickens, offices, extra space for guests, a workshop, a yoga space. That’s one of the things I love most about cohousing– it’s made sharing a norm.
All that sharing has of course reduced a number of global footprints. This is a step forward that especially appeals to me, having been involved in home construction and maintenance for 40+ years. Cohousing neighbors are both encouraging each other to be more efficient and achieving impressive synergies through sharing, working together. Vehicle use typically drops, community car sharing may pop up, fewer tools and lawnmowers and large kitchen appliances and hot tubs, and … are bought. As sharing goes up, cost per use goes down. Some communities have more efficient, shared heating and cooling systems. Some communities share a swimming pool, a trail through the woods, a CSA, an Internet connection. It varies. These are not cookie cutter communities. It’s individual, but what they have in common is increased efficiency and more resilient neighborhoods. A step up from a more efficient single-family home, a step toward a more resilient city, region, planet.
Better for people. Better for kids! Better for our environment. Even better for our political health. How? Cohousers design and manage their communities together. They talk with each other, they make decisions together, and they achieve success by listening to one another, learning to facilitate and participate in a human-scale polis despite their individual preferences and differences. I know a few countries that could use more citizens with these skills.
Cohousers have individual, private homes and finances (unlike communes) as well as common land and facilities. They are adept at balancing private and community interests. They are conducting a great experiment in building the more participatory and resilient communities that out modern world sorely needs. I bet you’d like to know more about how they’re succeeding at this. So…
Where are these successful cohousing communities? How are they unique? I want to save this post from getting too long, so look for a virtual visit to several communities, showcasing their variety and adaptability, in future posts to this blog from Stone’s Throw Ecovillage, in the heart of Wisconsin’s beautiful Driftless region.