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Cohousing On The Way To Nevada

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Photo by: Adrian Moreno
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Arcadia Cohousing, Carrboro, N.C.

The first cohousing community in North Carolina. It started in in the 1990s.

Founded by architect Giles Blunden.

In the 1980s, a new kind of living arrangement called "cohousing' sprouted up in the United States.

It's a mysterious term to most of us, but its growing numbers champion cohousing’s benefits – among them: environmental sustainability and community.

Katie McCamant is an architect by training and she runs a consulting firm, “Cohousing Solutions,” based in Nevada City, California.  She’s the co-author of two books: “Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities” and “Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves.”

McCamant, along with her husband Charles Durrett, are credited with bringing cohousing to America from Denmark, where it was called, "Living Communities." McCamant and Durrett even coined the term, “cohousing.”

“I look at it as a contemporary approach to recreating a kind of community that no longer exists in a way that meets our crazy 21 st Century lifestyles,” she said.

McCamant believes people want to know their neighbors and cohousing gives them that opportunity.

Cohousing generally means private homes centered around a shared space.

Becky Laskody lives in an established cohousing community in North Carolina. She said the community she lives in is about 33 homes on five acres with a common house in the middle. The entire community though encompasses about 16.5 acres of land with a grassy field, central playground, wooded areas, a pond and a stream. 

“Many folks that come to Arcadia say, 'This looks like a village,'" Laskody said, "With cohousing the houses tend to be clustered close together to enhance the social interaction."

Laskody and her husband chose the community when they wanted to start a family. They felt it was an ideal place to raise a child especially because of the sense of community.

If Laskody needed a last-minute babysitter for instance, it wasn't difficult for her to ask her neighbor. 

At Laskody's community, homeowners pitch in to maintain the community grounds around the houses. There is a homeowners association fee that is discounted if people help with maintenance. 

McCamant said the price of a home in a cohousing community might be a little higher because you're also buying the community land around your house, but she said there were several ways homeowners save money after buying a home, including more energy efficient housing and borrowing and lending between neighbors.

McCamant said cohousing communities work out problems together and try to build consensus on what is the best decision for the community as a whole.

“We actually work as a neighborhood to solve problems,” she said. 

The first cohousing community in Nevada is in the early stages of its formation. Kim Henry of Henderson is behind that effort.

Henry said she became convinced that cohousing was perfect for her when she visited a community in California.

She is currently trying to get people in Southern Nevada interested in building a cohousing community, but so far when she talks to people about it, she gets a lot of "deer in the headlight looks."

Many people don't understand the concept and are worried that because there is a common house in the center that everyone has to use one fridge, which they all point out is not the case. The homes in a cohousing community are private homes with all the modern amen ties you would expect. 

Henry tries to talk to as many people as she can about the idea in hopes of getting it off the ground.

“In order to make cohousing a reality in Southern Nevada, we need other people committed to creating this type of community,” she said.

Resources:

The Cohousing Association of the United States

Nevada City Cohousing 

Southern Nevada Cohousing

Arcadia Cohousing 

The Fellowship for Intentional Communities

Katie McCamant, of Cohousing Solutions of Nevada City, Calif.; Kim Henry of Henderson, Nevada; Becky Laskody of Arcadia, a cohousing community in Carrboro, N.C. 

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.