|USA TODAY article||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Denise Meier and/or Michael Jacob (dmmjwco.com)|
|Date: Tue, 15 Jul 1997 13:41:35 -0500|
Here's the text version. The URL is www.usatoday.com (as you might expect) --------------------------------------------- =20 Co-housing projects designed to foster community =20 ATLANTA - Nancy Lowe bangs on a pot to announce dinner. Residents of the Lake Claire Co-housing Community, milling about the spacious community house, line up for their weekly communal meal while children play in the common courtyard. On the menu this Sunday: brown rice, tofu salad and stir-fried vegetables. =20 The scene is very '60s, from the vegetarian meal to the Birkenstock sandals and community house. But this is not a hippie commune. Lake Claire is one of a growing number of co-housing developments that are the new communes of the '90s. =20 Since the nation's first co-housing community was built in Davis, Calif., in 1991, 30 more have opened in urban, suburban and rural areas in 12 states. More than 150 are being planned in every region of the country. =20 These subdivisions of homes and townhouses are attracting people who yearn for a sense of community, a return to love-thy-neighbor philosophy and an environmentally conscious lifestyle. Co-housing residents are suburbanites and urban dwellers, old and young, middle-class and well-to-do. One reason co-housing is catching on is the nation's growing number of single households. Single parents count on neighbors to watch the children. Single men and women find companionship. Older empty-nesters get help around the house. And everyone feels more sheltered from crime. =20 What is unique about co-housing is the way the developments begin. Usually a small group of people who want to live in co-housing take steps to build one in their community. =20 They either pool their money to buy land or find a developer who owns land and will build a co-housing community they design with the help of an architect. Often they recruit buyers. The latest trend is developers who are building co-housing communities on their own without potential buyers. But critics say that's not the true spirit of co-housing, in which residents have a say in every step of the development. =20 Most co-housing residents are professionals. They're people who can afford to come up with a down payment sometimes as early as four years before they can move in to their homes. Down payments usually are 10% of the price. =20 Conceived in Denmark in the 1970s, co-housing is intentionally designed to create a village ambience. Front porches and balconies face a Main Street of sorts. The only way to get from the parking lot to the front door of each home is to walk past neighbors' homes. =20 "In most communities, you flip on the garage-door opener and slip inside without having to say 'boo' to your neighbor," says Don Lindemann, editor in chief of the Cohousing journal in Berkeley, Calif. =20 Pedestrian walkways crisscross the courtyard and playground, and they all lead to the centerpiece of the complex: the common house. Equipped with a large kitchen, laundry room, play room, workshop and a big family room, the common house is the soul of co-housing. That's where group meals are held and where residents pick up their mail, do laundry or just hang out when they want company. =20 Gerald Celente, head of the Trends Research Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y., expects co-housing-style communities to prosper in 2000 and beyond "when home-alone households" will outnumber the traditional all-American family. People living alone made up 25% of all households in 1996, up from 17% in 1970, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the number of one-parent families almost tripled in that period to 9.3 million. =20 "Co-housing is an extended family," says Greg Ramsey, a resident of Lake Claire, where half of the units are occupied by single women, some with children, and the rest by married couples and families. =20 "It doesn't have to be a spiritual or religious ideal to tie it together but strictly a common value for shared community and fraternity." =20 Ramsey, 39, works with Preston & Associates, an Atlanta architectural firm that designed Lake Claire. The complex of 12 town homes is on less than one acre in a gentrified, bohemian neighborhood near downtown Atlanta. The residents are teachers, actors, social workers, artists and computer systems engineers. =20 "First, it was the communes of the '60s and then the extreme opposite in the '80s. Now, we're somewhere in the middle," says Kathryn McCamant, author of Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, the 1988 book that fueled the trend in the United States. =20 Solid investment =20 Co-housing residents don't like their communities to be confused with the '60s communes. And indeed they're not. Residents own their own home or town house. They can sell at any time and to anyone. Prospective buyers are asked to attend several community meetings before they buy into the complex. But unlike a co-op apartment building, co-housing residents don't approve new members. =20 At Lake Claire in Atlanta, town homes run between $100,000 and $130,000 for units that are 1,000 to 1,600 square feet. But in tony suburbs of Boston and Santa Fe, where co-housing communities are popping up, homes can be 3,000 square feet and cost about $300,000. =20 Buying when a co-housing community is in the planning stages can be a good investment. The homes can be worth 20% more by the time they're ready to be occupied, say co-housing experts. =20 And resale does not seem to be a problem. Lake Claire opened in April and there's already a waiting list of people interested in the first unit that goes on the market. =20 In co-housing complexes the only area that's owned by everyone is the common space, which includes the common house. Every resident has a say in how the common space is used. The complexes rely heavily on shared resources, such as one lawnmower and one set of tools. =20 Recycling and energy conservation often are a key element. Even cooking duties are shared. At Lake Claire, residents take turns cooking the weekly group meal. Residents pay a monthly association fee of $80 for things such as landscaping and upkeep of the common house. =20 Privacy concerns =20 But co-housing is not for everyone. "It's not a way of life well-suited to extreme individualists," Lindemann says. Residents have to work a little to protect their privacy. =20 Warns Lake Claire resident Kathy Burke, 46: "If you're having a domestic problem here, people will know. If you're having a drinking problem, people will know. But they'll also provide you communal support." =20 Steve and Laurie Bayless and their two children moved into one of 30 homes at Greyrock Commons, in Fort Collins, Colo., a year after they bought into the community. Steve, an engineer, admits that he was a bit concerned about the lack of privacy. "But people are pretty sensitive to that issue, and there's definitely a place to retreat," he says. =20 Steve now raves about the communal spirit. Residents quickly formed a carpool when it came time for children to start summer school. When people are headed to the grocery or hardware store, they put a colored flag by their door, inviting neighbors to drop off their shopping lists. =20 Liz Mitchell Curtis moved out of her five-bedroom house on two acres of land in the upscale Buckhead section of Atlanta and into Lake Claire as soon as the youngest of her three children went to college. =20 "I couldn't stand one more minute of suburbia," says the 49-year-old divorced welfare case worker. "But I was afraid that everybody was going to be totally humorless here, too earnest. But they're just people who honor humanity over everything else and believe in doing the right thing." =20 When she wants to be alone, she locks her door for privacy. When she feels like chatting, she steps out the front door and bonds with the neighbors. The big difference here is that the neighbors are more likely to be like her. But Curtis still gets razzed by her 23-year-old son. =20 "He just thinks it's hysterical," she says. =20 "When he calls he'll ask if we're having a group hug." =20 Judy Baxter is 54 and a computer data analyst for the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. She says she lived in a wonderful neighborhood in Minneapolis before moving to the Monterey Cohousing Community in St. Louis Park, a suburb of the city. The complex is eight apartments in a 1924 Georgian mansion and seven new townhomes. =20 In her old neighborhood, Baxter says she "worked very hard to build a relationship with my neighbors but then they would move or they would be too busy. People here are interested in having relationships." =20 By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY =A9COPYRIGHT 1997 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. [INLINE]
Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.