By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
On IAC, you’ll read many articles about chaos and dysfunction in Association Governed Housing developments. An increasing number of buyers and former HOA homeowners want to avoid living in another developer-centric, corporate controlled neighborhood. And many want to avoid the pettiness and conflict so inherent in condominium associations as well as planned communities.
But some people like the idea of being socially connected to their neighbors. They share an intense interest in protecting the environment, living in harmony with nature. Some value a small village lifestyle where you can eat meals with neighbors, and lean on one another when health issues or personal setbacks make life more difficult.
For some people, co-housing appears to fill their needs and desires for social connection. Check out several examples in the list below.
Is co-housing an appropriate lifestyle for everyone? No, but I can see this as a viable option for some people. And co-housing has some important distinctions that differentiate it from condominium or homeowners association living.
- The residents are always in control. The developer works for the people who invest in the concept and will live in the community.
- Owner occupancy is the norm. Real estate speculation is discouraged or forbidden.
- The size of these communities is small and manageable.
- The residents tend to be fully engaged and committed to concept. Newcomers to the group are carefully vetted to make sure they will fit in with the group, and will not exploit or bully neighbors.
- Most of the designs are customized and thoughtful. They include private spaces as well as social interaction.
Of course, no one can promise utopia. And co-housing is bound to have its social challenges. But we know they work, to some extent, all over the world. There are variations such as communes and kibbutzes. In Pennsylvania, Amish, Mennonites, and Quakers have been living in small, relatively self-sufficient communities for centuries. And they peacefully coexist with their surrounding neighbors.
If we are to move beyond the current situation where almost nothing is built or redeveloped without imposing Association Governance, we will have to explore a more diverse array of options. People come in all shapes and sizes – so should their housing options.
Examples of Co-housing:
Fair Oaks Cohousing, CA
Fresno Cohousing, CA
Wissahickon Village Cohousing, PA (for senior living)