Cohousing is an opportunity for like-minded people to come together and form a community. They are intentional in their pursuit of a community and together they define what the community will look like. It may be a community for seniors, and inter-generational community, a community that focuses on "green living" or a group that shares similar hobbies such as music. Cohousing is something that has taken root on both of the coasts. However, it's an idea still fairly new to Minnesotans. When I teach classes and talk about cohousing, it's received with genuine interest and excitement!
Of course my interest in cohousing stems from my work with seniors. In our society aging is seen as a decline. Today we segregate our elders into age restricted "senior" communities. I see cohousing as an opportunity for our elders to live intergenerationally and to depend on others in the community for daily needs instead of having to move out of their homes into institutions (keep in mind this is a REALTOR(R) advocating for people to NOT sell their homes).
In the Twin Cities Metro, there are two groups of people that have come together with the intention for forming an intentional community. First, Homewood Cohousing is not trying to fit a group of people into one building, but rather, is trying to build a cooperative neighborhood. On the website the first sentence is "we've lost some steam." Let's hope they keep at it. Second, Community in the Cities, is actively meeting, recruiting members and searching for real estate. In both of these cases the people found each other first, and are now looking for a site. In the third case, there was a developer with a site in Fridley, however that project fizzled (much to many of our chagrin). why is it so difficult for this co-housing idea to get kick started in Minnesota?
1. Capital - If I were a member of an intentional community, I would want everyone in the group to put in the same percentage of their income or net worth as a down payment. I would want reassurances that others in the group were as serious as I, and put their money were their mouth is!
2. Logistical housing issues- If 10 families in the group need to sell their homes to have the cash for a down payment, temporary housing would need to be available between the time they sold their family home and the time the cohousing development were livable. In most cases, this would eat up some of the available cash for the down payment, depending on how long the family would have to wait to move into the co-housing development.
3. Legal structure of the unit- It Minnesota there are cooperatives, condominiums, and townhouse, but not a lot of precedent to legally define this kind of housing structure and how each of the residents take title.
While all legitimate challenges, there is a group that has overcome all of them. Monterey Cohousing development in St. Louis Park is the only existing cohousing development in the Twin Cities Area. The residents are pioneers and a model of what can be done with persistence. This movement will require visionary leaders.
If I had a crystal ball.... I think Minnesota Baby Boomers will lead the way to a new way of thinking about housing options. Cohousing will offer exciting new options to our aging population, and greatly impact the number of assisted living and nursing homes we have today. One of the many changes we'll be seeing!