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Initial meeting of cohousing for Northern Illinois was focused and productive – we have begun!

A small core group got together to discuss creating cohousing in northern Illinois.  We shared what we meant by cohousing, what we are looking for, why we’re drawing to living more in community.  We talked about the importance of sustainability in housing and community design.  We shared our interest in multi-generational living, the importance of the arts and our shared passions for healthy food.

We agreed that we are all eager to get going on this – to move it forward.  As part of our next steps planning we registered a domain name – Prairiemooncohousing.com!  The entire community that forms over time will decide on our ultimate name, but the initial group was good with Prairie Moon.

NEXT STEPS:

  • Write blog entry about the meeting – Diane (this is it – done!)
  • Create Facebook page for Prairie Moon Cohousing – Diane
  • (first step for this is to look at the McHenry County Food Cooperative FB page as a template – Diane)
  • Create website for Prairie Moon Cohousing – Deb
  • Finalize monthly meeting date (we had said “around the 15th of each month, but that’s hard to schedule – I will propose the 3rd Sunday of each month) – all
  • Talk about it with people we know – as we build more materials (flyers, etc) we can publicize more broadly, but to begin with, we want to let people know informally – including via this blog – all

Sue and I were excitedly discussing the meeting afterwards and she pointed out how fortuitous it was that we began our project in earnest at the full moon – full moons talk about things coming to fruition!

We are all very excited at the prospect of forming cohousing in Northern Illinois!  Want to read more about what we mean?  Here’s a post from my blog.  Here’s the cohousing.org website.  And from that site, here is a definition of cohousing.  As a quick sum-up – it’s a community of people who wish to live more cooperatively – each in their own dwelling, but with a ‘common house’ – central gathering place – for group activities liked weekly shared meals, celebrations, craft areas, etc.

Interested?  Let me know here in the comment stream and we’ll continue to keep you posted.  Next meeting is Sunday, March 16 from 2-5 PM, location TBD.

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I’ve mentioned here and here that my friends and I are interested in cohousing in Northern Illinois.   My best friend Sue will be up here from February 13 – 17 to help me celebrate my Big Girl birthday.  I’d love it if we could connect with anyone interested in discussing creating cohousing in Northern Illinois.

At an initial meeting we could:

  • Talk about WHY we are interested in cohousing
  • WHEN – Discuss timeframes that we each have in mind
  • Mull over WHO we would like to live in community with
  • Clarify WHAT we mean when we say ‘cohousing’
  • and begin to sort out WHERE we mean when we say ‘northern Illinois’
  • Finally, talk about HOW to proceed

I am thinking Sunday, February 16 from 2-5.  As a starting point I’ll suggest Cook St. Coffee in Barrington since that is near me – but if we have people coming from all over we can certainly find a place that is more equidistant.

Please let me know in the comments if you are interested in attending.  To create cohousing there will have to be many planning meetings – this is simply a start to the conversation.

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Last year at New Year’s I said I would blog 2-4 times per week.  It wasn’t a “New Year’s resolution” per se – just a “this feels right, let’s do it” start to a new year.

Then my Dad died very unexpectedly (anaphylactic shock).  The reverberations continue.  And as I posted in Diane 3.0 – Wandering Sage – Where’s the Ceremony I’m at a liminal state of life.  I AM ‘test driving’ “retirement” – my last day in my corporate gig was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  As I mentioned in the earlier post this feels a lot like first grade or adolescence – I don’t know how to do this, where are my playmates, etc.

One of the things I know I want to do is to get back into my exploration of cohousing in Northern Illinois as mentioned in this post.  I’ve been heartened that several of you have responded to my initial posts and have felt regretful that I’ve not ‘sprung into action’ earlier.  Grief is a strange land to walk through and losing someone as important as my dad was to me took a lot out of me.  But it’s time to re-embrace life!

With winters such as we are having now in Chicagoland, I have to say I question my sanity in considering this land of my roots as the land of my elder years – what’s with this -10 today?!  But roots run deep.  And the fact that there is no cohousing in northern Illinois seems to present an opportunity to forge a trail.

So this post is just to say hello again – to thank you for your patience.  My thought right now is that this year’s blogs will focus on two primary themes – this “Life 3.0” stage and cohousing.  Oh, I am peripatetic, so there likely will be all sorts of things to say, but the conversations I seek are around the issues of moving into the next phase of life and of living in community.

Thank you for your patience – and let the conversation begin!

Please chime in with YOUR experiences of moving into a new life phase (doesn’t have to be ‘baby elderhood’) and or your interest in building community (doesn’t have to be cohousing per se).  As always, I really want to know!

iRISH SWEATER JAN 2014

 

 

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Today I was on the Cohousing site and I noticed that the one cohousing group that’s been trying to form in Illinois has now officially disbanded, leaving Illinois as one of only 14 states without an officially noticed cohousing site.  And – worse yet (for me, at least) we are one of only 3 ‘blue states’ to be cohousing-less (the other laggards are Nevada – which really is more ‘purple’ if you ask me, and Rhode Island – which we can give a pass to for being tiny).

Seriously, Illinois?

So if you’re interested in the possibility of changing that dynamic, stick around!

As I noted in my last post on cohousing, my small group is considering starting a cohousing community in northern Illinois (for the record, we’re also talking about Madison, WI and Asheville, NC).  We’ll be doing a website (and I’ll move posts about cohousing there once it’s up and running) and a Facebook page, but for now this is our initial ‘mouthpiece.’

So what I really want to know is simple:

  • Do you have any interest in this topic at all?
  • If so, what questions do you have or what topics germane to cohousing would you like to know more about?
  • Do you have any interest at all in actually moving into a cohousing community in the next 3-5 years?

And if you have ZERO interest in cohousing, tell me about that too.  Now – over to you!  Click on comments and add to the conversation!

 

It's old - and still shows 1 in Illinois (since disbanded) - but you get the picture

It’s old – and still shows 1 in Illinois (since disbanded) – but you get the picture

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You’ve read about cohousing on this blog (click on the tag on the right and you’ll see all the cohousing posts).  It’s long been an interest of mine.  I’ll be starting a new blog/website on this topic and further posts will be there, but I also want to share it with this broader community.  Read the vision – and if you are interested in more information and will want to be on that blog and/or Facebook page, indicate that in the comments.

Cohousing Vision

Introduction:

Hi.  I’m Diane Scholten.  For many years my friend Sue McGill and I have talked about living more intentionally with others. We first investigated “Intentional Communities” – think of hippie communes grown up – a community with a shared vision, often incorporating work with living (“The Farm” in Tennessee, Findhorn in Scotland).

Then we heard about “Cohousing”.  Born in Denmark, introduced to the US within the last twenty or so years, cohousing seemed a better fit.  Think of ‘an enlightened neighborhood’.  The Cohousing Organization defines cohousing as:  “Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.  Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.” (http://www.cohousing.org/what_is_cohousing).

Sue, our dear friend Bill, and I are planning to live in cohousing as we sail into our wise elder years.  We are now ready to move forward and find others interested in joining us.  While we are moving into elder years, we very much envision a multi-generational community.

Initial Ideas:

WHO:

  • People who want to live with more meaning, intention.
  • People who care about sustainability and the Earth.
  • People who value connection with others (while also valuing their need for independence).
  • People who value nature.
  • People who value pets.
  • People who value children, adults and elders.
  • People who are active and involved.
  • People who believe in shared decision-making and shared responsibility.
  • People who want to help create community.
  • People who like to have FUN!

WHAT:

We are envisioning creating a cohousing community with 12-30 small or mid-sized houses and a large ‘common house.’  A primary appeal of cohousing is that each household – be it an individual, a couple or a family – can have a smaller space with the common house providing shared space. For instance – the common house would have a large kitchen for opt-in community meals (the community would decide if these would be weekly, nightly, etc.)  The common house could have 2 guest bedrooms – alleviating the need for each household to have space to accommodate guests.  As part of our exploration, those who help create the community will flesh out a vision for the common house and we will post some initial discussion starting ideas soon.

Houses will be arranged to encourage interaction with community members while also maintaining privacy.  We envision a mix of small houses, small houses that could be expanded and mid-sized houses for families.

Open space, gardening areas, play areas for children and pets are all important attributes.

 WHERE:

While we have been considering Madison, Wisconsin (Diane’s first choice) and Asheville, NC (Sue’s first choice) we are currently focusing on somewhere around Woodstock, Illinois.  However, this is open to discussion.

WHEN:

As soon as we have enough people to move forward with planning.  We are envisioning spending a year planning/designing and then building.  We’d like to begin the planning process this summer.

WHY:

Here are some of the reasons why WE are interested in cohousing.  We’d love to hear YOUR whys!

  • Living more lightly on the earth.  Design with sustainability in mind – build ‘green’
  • Sharing resources: Why have 10 Vitamixes when you can have 1?
  • Community!  Sharing LIFE, not just stuff
  • Inter-generational.  We hope to have younger friends, kids as well as we elders  – we all have so much to give one another and so much to learn from one another

 HOW:

  • Form a core group of people who are definitely interested
    • Ready to do this within two or so years
    • Have financial resources to move forward (see How Much)
    • Willing and able to do the ‘roll up  your  shirt sleeves’ planning work
    • Read, take seminars, perhaps engage a cohousing consultant early on
    • Decide on a locale
    • Talk to an architect (Diane has already reached out preliminarily to Design Coalition in Madison, WI who have experience in creating cohousing)
    • Create a budget
    • Create a timeline
    • Find land
    • …. The Initial committee will flesh out a detailed work program

 HOW MUCH?

We don’t know yet (obviously) but we are hoping to create a community with various price options.  Bear in mind that in community you are paying for your own house, but also the common house, shared land, etc.

Cohousing can have a wide range of prices.  I am hoping that we can create a community with options – from $175K – $300K.  But this is very much up in the air.

And while I’m initially envisioning a community of small houses, perhaps we’ll have mixed housing – some small houses, some mid-sized houses and a block of condo/townhouses.

One thing we’ll want to know from prospective cohousing neighbors is what YOUR housing budget allows.

 What’s Next?

We’re excited about this new venture – and we hope you’ll consider joining us!

cohousing

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Pocket Neighborhoods


Have you heard of ‘pocket neighborhoods’?  Until last week, neither had I.  After stumbling upon an article about them in the AARP newsletter, I did a little research.

Wikipedia says:

“A pocket neighborhood is a grouping of smaller residences, often around a courtyard or common garden, designed to promote a close knit sense of community and neighborliness with an increased level of contact. Considerations involved in planning and zoning pocket neighborhoods include reducing or segregating parking and roadways, the use of shared communal areas that promote social activities, and homes with smaller square footage built in close proximity to one another (high density). Environmental considerations often play a role in the planning of pocket neighborhoods, and those advocating them promote their design as an alternative to the sprawl, isolation, expense, and commuter and automobile focus of many larger homes in suburban developments.”

Ross Chapin, the architect responsible for this concept does speaking engagements on the Cohousing circuit (conferences, et al) and has written a beautiful book:   Neighborhoods:  Creating Small-Scale Community in a Big-Scale World.  The forward of his book, which I just received in the mail, is done by noted “Not So Big House” architect Sarah Susanka.  If you like architecture and home design, you’ll love this book.

My very brief perusal of the article and book intrigue me.  It’s a concept I’ll further explore.

My very limited understanding now is that pocket neighborhoods encourage co-housing like community, but aren’t specifically called out as such.  Ownership would likely be private with no structural common space (albeit a common space outdoor area seems to be built into the design – ownership  thereof is unclear).  It seems that is more ‘subdivision-like’ in that the builder builds it and then people buy in, rather than having a group of people with common ideals forming together to build cohousing.

The other differentiating feature I see initially is scale.  Pocket neighborhoods, by design are small.  Cohousing can be small, but more typically is 20+ households, not 8-12.

I’ll be reading up more on this, including my newly acquired book and will let you know what I find.  If nothing else, this man designs beautiful, functional houses – good grist for the mill as my friends and I broaden our retirement living planning.

Have you heard of pocket neighborhoods?  Visited any?  What’s your take?

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Have you heard of Community Land Trusts?  I had not – but after my friend Sue alerted me to this innovative housing model, I did a little research at The National Community Land Trust Network site.  The site says that the concept is not totally new – it’s been around for approximately 30 years. However, it seems to me that with the overall economic downturn, combined with the big wave of Baby Boomer retirements beginning, that it’s more timely than ever.

The basic concept (as I understand it) is that a nonprofit organization is formed to own a piece of land – the community land trust.  On that land houses are built.  The people own the houses, but lease the land.

This ownership model could probably be used for any community purpose, but the purpose of CLTs is to provide affordable housing.  To that end, the CLTs I investigated (in Illinois, Wisconsin, and, because I’m thinking of retiring there, North Carolina) all had income thresholds.  The one in Evanston also had an asset threshold.

When I investigated Village Cohousing in Madison, Wisconsin several years ago, the unit I was interested in buying must have been under some form of CLT-ownership (interestingly, not all in the complex were) with income, but not asset requirements.  My income has varied somewhat dramatically over the years and that was in an ebb period – but I still missed qualifying.  I was intrigued, however, by the concept.  Madison (still my dream place to live) is not cheap.  Village Cohousing is located in a desirable neighborhood – right near the University and the Capitol – unaffordable for many.  So this concept made living there realistic for seniors on fixed incomes, young families (like the one selling this unit) or people who work in low-paying professions.  I loved the concept even though it knocked me out of the running to live in the unit that was for sale.

I think we need innovative thinking to get America back on track. If we look at the old model of growth-based unbridled capitalism – it’s simply not working.  I continue to think that combination of so many foreclosed or abandoned homes and so many homeless people seems like a “duh!” – we should be able to resolve this in a way that benefits all people.  The banks that took this economy down and who continue to rob us – I say let them fend for themselves.

What a wonderful way to help individuals and families, to help neighborhoods, to help us all by providing safe, affordable housing to people who otherwise probably would not be able to become homeowners.

What are your thoughts on CLTs?  Had you heard of them?  How do you think they’d benefit society?  What problems do you see with them?  What other innovative ideas do you have to resolve the housing crisis?  I’d really like to know!

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