Co-Housing alive in Northfield

February 18th, 2009 by Peter Schmelzer

On Sunday afternoon, I joined the Buffalo Commons Co-Housing group for a work session. The group is alive and well!

The meeting was facilitated by Cindy Robinson, who did a nice job of keeping the meeting on task and on time. Discussion was lively on important formative issues like timeframe, site selection, group governance, values, deal-breakers, and the role of consultants in the project. Originally targeted for a specific lot in Northfield, the group has decided to investigate other lots, too, to determine what will best suit the group.

Co-housing is an interesting and viable option to standard residential development. Residents get to know each other before the project is designed through a process of determining how the community should be formed by the interior and exterior spaces that will be created. Cohousing usually consists of smaller than average dwelling units clustered on a site sharing a common house and parking areas away from the residences. The common house usually features a commercial-grade kitchen, dining and lounging areas, a children’s room and other shared amenities as the group so desires. Shared meals are optional, but become a central feature in strengthening community and easing the pressures of domestic life. Privacy is as ample as each resident wants it to be, with easy access to community (a tougher asset to find these days.)

Financially, it has proven to be viable, too. Lenders see the value of having units sold before construction begins (condominium or cooperative models have both been used.) Cohousing units tend to increase in value more than single family homes. And residents can receive benefits from amenities that are only available by pooling resources.

Sustainability can also be achieved more readily through the cohousing model. Smaller units mean less materials and less impact on the landscape. Clustered homes allow for larger open spaces, shared gardens, and social activities on site in the common house. Shared walls reduce heating and cooling costs, often to the point of having a shared heating plant for multiple homes. Cohousing communities also tend to foster efficiency in other ways such as carpooling.

If you are interested in learning more about cohousing, let me know and I’ll connect you to the best of my ability!

Posted in All Entries, Community, Sustainability 1 Comment »