Monday, August 18, 2014

Cohousing: Exodus

I have this dream, when it comes to tiny house living, about being in a community of other tiny house dwellers. There's this concept called cohousing that was invented and developed by the Danish that I came up with before I heard about it.  I don't say that to brag, thinking I did something, or thought of something before someone else or whatever, but to show that this is where my dream of community led me on my own, only to find my idea validated when I heard of cohousing.

The concept behind cohousing is more than just an "intentional community", but a community where the residents are the developer. Cohousing is started when a group of people with similar values for living, though not necessarily the same religious or political views, come together to create a true community. To me, this means a place where children can run around, trusting whatever adults are nearby, where people come across each other on pathways and stop to chat and have a beer or soda together, where people eat together on a regular basis, talking and laughing together.

To me, a cohousing community is about sharing: cooking together, eating together, doing repairs and landscaping and gardening together. All cohousing developments have a common house and common areas that are cared for by the people who live there. Shared meals are common, nightly in many of the communities.

There's a book called Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities by Kathryn McCamant and I'm in the middle of reading it now. I can't recommend it enough to people who are even remotely interested in this kind of community.  The idea is to create true community, rather than just a bunch of houses that are near each other. I found it at my library on Overdrive (which, if you've never used it, is GENIUS). There's also a book on Senior Cohousing, but as that does not yet apply to me, it's not high on my reading list.  Standard cohousing (all ages) is really good for the older generation, in my opinion, simply because being shipped off to be around no one but old people can be depressing, and seniors really need a younger generation to whom to tell their stories. Plus, being around seniors is good for kids and the younger generation because it introduces a new perspective.

So how does this apply to what I want to do? Well, in a dream world, where land in Los Angeles isn't prohibitively expensive, or I had won $140 million in a power ball jackpot, I would jump on this in two seconds flat. I might be willing to develop it on my own, just because I am so gung-ho on it all, but I need other people. Just because I am in love with the idea, doesn't mean everyone will want a yoga room on the premises.

Basically, this is my idea: 30-40 tiny houses in community around a larger community center/ communal house. Because most tiny houses aren't built for true plumbing (composting toilets, gray water catchment, etc.), all that plumbing would be in the central house, including showers and (probably) flush toilets. I still want the showers and sinks to go to a central grey water catchment holding tank for use on the garden, rather than all draining out to sewage lines. In that building would also be a community kitchen, larger than what's in most houses even, so we can cook for 20-30 people every night. I want a cafe atmosphere with wireless internet for everyone who works from "home", complete with cushy chairs and desk-like work stations. We'll probably end up with an espresso machine, too. I'd love to see a pillow room or play room of some kind for the kids in the community, and a yoga/meditation room for the adults. I'd like to see a walk-in fridge and/or freezer that can be shared by the community because many tiny house have very tiny fridges. I'd like to see a solar array on the roof to power the whole building, and any outbuildings. The only outbuilding I'd like to see is a workshop where people can build their houses on site if they don't have one before they join in, or simply to make repairs or do craft projects. This could also be the garden shop as well: a place to start seedlings, replant larger things, as well as storing garden tools.

My biggest dream, the thing I'd like to see more than just about anything else, is a large community vegetable garden. With all the grey water that we'll be producing (20-30 houses, plus community showers and laundry), it should be more than enough to water vegetables and some fruit trees. I'm obsessed with the idea of keeping an organic garden, even though I know almost nothing about it, and would love to keep that in mind. We'll also need a compost heap, and a place to take care of the composting toilets. If we do it right, it shouldn't stink at all, which is good. I still need to get a copy of the Humanure Handbook, but since I can't get it at the library, I'm going to have to buy a copy, and I don't have the money for it yet. Yet.

I'd also like to do a couple rental units, both ones that will just be available month-to-month and ones that we can list on AirBnB, or use for guests of residents.

I have a vision for the community, now all I need is about 15-20 other tiny house-ers to join in to this craziness. People who will help me plan, help me pay for things, but most of all who will be an extended family in this tiny life.

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