For These Homeowners, It Takes an Ecovillage

by Samantha Shaddock

Would you want to live in a compound much like that of The Others on Lost? You’re in luck.

My sister-in-law’s mother has found such a place for her retirement: White Rock Crossing, a co-housing development near White Rock Lake. She calls it an “intentional community,” and that’s an apt description. Residents buy their plots and build their townhomes with the expectation that they will actively engage with their neighbors: maintaining the grounds, preparing and consuming regular meals together, and making decisions based on consensus. They also support the notion of living lightly in Dallas and have enlisted Anderson Sargent Custom Builders to construct homes that are energy efficient and earth-friendly.

White Rock Crossing is among a growing list of similar experiments across the country, some of which have existed for more than 20 years. Cohousing.org publishes a directory of existing or planned communities, which include:

  • Muir Commons in Davis, Calif. — The first newly constructed co-housing development in the U.S. Its first residents moved into their homes in 1991. Today it has 26 units.
  • Doyle Street in Emeryville, Calif. — First occupied by co-housing pioneers Chuck Durrett and Katie McCamant and completed in 1992. Today it has 12 units and 19 members.
  • Boulder Creek in Boulder, Colo. — A larger complex featuring a mix of properties for lease or ownership. Today it has official 13 members, and several nonmembers also live on the grounds.

Judging by the number of listings on Cohousing.org., the western U.S. – notably California, Washington and Colorado – offers more options, but 33 other states have at least one co-housing community. Many of these developments cater to older residents looking for safe, close-knit communities in which to spend their later years: The Oakcreek Community in Stillwater, Okla.; ElderSpirit Community at Trailview in Abington, Va.; and Eldergreen Cohousing in Chapel Hill-Carroboro, N.C., to name a few.

This sort of semi-communal living isn’t for everyone. Residents may like the idea of sharing tasks and maybe even occasional meals with their neighbors, but they draw the line at sharing walls. For some, buying a plot on a compound doesn’t jibe with traditional ideas of homeownership. And for others, co-housing may smack of communist ideals that they can’t reconcile with their own political leanings.

However, it’s hard to deny the appeal of knowing and trusting the people on one’s block. How great would it be to know you could safely leave your child or dog with the Joneses while you go the store (and pick up a bag of rice for said Joneses while you’re there)? How great would it feel to be trusted to reciprocate? Fifty years ago, this wouldn’t be a topic for discussion. Times have changed, though. Our population, particularly in large cities, is transient. We often don’t know our neighbors, much less trust them. For some, co-housing makes doing so more likely.

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One Comment to “For These Homeowners, It Takes an Ecovillage”

  1. I would move here. Seriously.

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