Community is one of our core values at Infiniti and it’s at center of many things we do throughout the year. Last year Eva Otto gave a talk on Aging in Place. The talk was oriented toward seniors, many looking to avoid the eventual nursing home and to Age in Place in their home near their loved ones and community. More recently Eva spoke to a younger inspired and motivated group about Co-Buying property together and building community. This year we also attended the Cohousing Conference in Portland Oregon to hear a variety of speakers talk about Co-Housing; one of many forms of living in Community.
Quite obviously there are various formats in which people are choosing to live together in community. Some from necessity some from desire. We have also learned that these various formats have different applications and seek to address social needs, like companionship, housing, affordability, and equity in different ways. Many terms get thrown around and used interchangeably. However, each of these ideas brings its own nuances as they relate to Planning, Community, Design, Real Estate and Finance.
The Cohousing Association of the US, who produced the recent Oregon Conference specifically defines the term “Cohousing”:
“Cohousing is community intentionally designed with ample common spaces surrounded by private homes. Collaborative spaces typically include a common house with a large kitchen and dining room, laundry, and recreational areas and outdoor walkways, open space, gardens, and parking. Neighbors use these spaces to play together, cook for one another, share tools, and work collaboratively. Common property is managed and maintained by community members, providing even more opportunities for growing relationship.”
Co-housing as a movement, is said to have its roots in European and Scandinavian models back in the 1970’s but has since flourished across the united states.
Seattle Architect and Co-Housing specialist Grace Kim spoke at the Conference. She lives in the Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing where she has designed and built a community for 8 families with shared rooftop gardens, common house, play areas and guest rooms on a standard in-city lot.
From a development standpoint Co-Housing is often New Construction, developed by a group of individuals looking to live intentionally together with some shared resources and common spaces. They are often self funded by a group of motivated individuals or an organization.
Many successful Co-Housing groups seem to attribute the success of the community and the strength of their bonds to shared meals. It was emphasized over and over at the Conference in Portland that meals are core to the success and formation of a strong community, this is where relationships are made and forged that bind members on a deeper level and build a sense of belonging and value. The concept of shared meals and responsibilities puts to ease many of the stresses of daily survival. Shared babysitting and eldercare are one of the value benefits of Intergenerational Cohousing communities.
Who joins a Co-housing?
Co-Housing is increasingly and positively addressing social issues of loneliness plaguing or society. An issue only exacerbated amongst our aging seniors.
“When we plan for our retirement years, nursing homes or living alone with a home health care aid is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately, however, as much as we dread the thought, there may come a day when our family will be faced with the tough decision of whether or not to move us into a nursing home.”
Learning from the European Intentional Community model many Seniors are opting to Age in Place with their friends family and community. Sometimes planning and developing the communities themselves, most always governing themselves, their care and their community. In these communities , seniors stay engaged, they provide social value and continue to thrive. A reality not so prevalent in the nursing home.
“According to the National Council on Aging, seniors are driven by a desire for connectedness. For us to be happy and comfortable in our golden years, we really need to maintain our sense of purpose and independence. Senior cohousing really is an exciting alternative to traditional options and provides the chance to stay connected to people and things that matter to us.”
Similar to the way our aging population is changing the way we approach housing, populations with specific needs, there is an expected significant rise in adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who will also change the way we approach housing.
“Despite the recent rise of developments that deviate from the institutional type of facility, many parents continue to voice their struggle to find safe and appropriate living environments for their adult children. The problem is not just the limited option on where to live, financing a home is also another dilemma. Thus, the challenge to provide appropriate living environments coincide with the need to provide meaningful opportunities that allows them to thrive and function in the society.”
There has been much recent discussion on designing and developing neighborhoods for those with varied abilities and productive vocational skills. The Tierra Learning Center is a local example of this. Their housing development is associated with a 300 acres community oriented retreat center in Leavenworth Washington. Tierra Village is a Non-Profit organization whose mission is to provide homes and services for people with developmental disabilities in a collaborative, integrated and diverse community located in a beautiful natural setting. Their Vision …
“…is of a society in which people of all abilities live as equal citizens with full respect for their human rights, freedom and dignity. Everyone has the same choices and opportunities to live a purposeful and valued community life with the needed supports to do so.” -Tierra Village
Each of the types of cohousing above have a set of shared values or needs. For other communities the common value can often be shared resources, typical of the new sharing economy, or solely housing and still for other communities those core values might go much deeper.