Alice Alexander, Coho/US Executive Director
Visit our Facebook Open House Event page for pictures and stories!
It was like a party! I was an informal greeter and met so many interesting and lively people. Maybe this response is a nice indication that our society is beginning to think realistically and creatively about housing. ST, Acequia Jardin (Albuquerque)
It gave us a chance to show off our beautiful community, and find potential buyers for current homes for sale, but also setting seeds for the future. More people now know about us and know more about cohousing. Katie McCamant, Nevada City Cohousing (California)
Many thanks to the 95 communities across the country who opened their doors and welcomed the public for our inaugural National Cohousing Open House Day on April 30th. While several communities struggled to attract media attention, and were disappointed with low attendance, the vast majority of participating communities enjoyed robust crowds and diverse visitors - from the curious, to the “let’s sit down and talk” serious, to many who were re-educated in what they thought cohousing was. We estimate 3,000 folks joined in based on early survey results.
Coho/US had simply stated but auspicious goals when we embarked on this national event (the brainchild of Laura Fitch) and we hope everyone shares pride in making inroads in each of these auspicious aims:
* Educate the public about cohousing
* Support existing communities in growing their waiting lists
* Support forming groups in attracting new members
* Growing the cohousing movement
The synergy we created - as a national movement, within our network of area communities, and within our individual communities - propels us to establish this as an annual event. Most all participating communities surveyed rated the open house experience an excellent one, with confidence they would participate next year. Save the date for April 29, 2017 for the 2nd annual National Cohousing Open House Day!
A good half of communities collaborated with other area cohousing, from hosting forming groups within established communities, to coordinating tours and providing area maps, to sponsoring joint events, to coordinating promotions. Inger Easton with Cascadia Commons in Portland shared: "We were able to publish as a group of communities in the Metro Area, and allow for members of all to visit each other."
The add on events and creative activities were impressive, from meals, to kids activities, to workshops on renewable energy and sociocracy. Green Grove Coho in Oregon hosted a live bluegrass jam along with family-friendly cooperative games, crafts and demos. Burlington Cohousing East Village in Vermont offered crafts, music, a pre May Day parade, and a pot luck dinner.
The movie Within Reach was shown by 34 communities. At my Durham Coho, we had a surprise guest of movie editor Derek Rowe, who led a lively discussion after the showing! Many thanks to the Fellowship for Intentional Community for providing these free showings.
Our survey yielded some great ideas for improving the event, such as providing a hand out as part of the tool kit, earlier and expanded marketing efforts, and more hands on instructions for social media. Angela Steiert at Trillium Hollow in Portland stressed: "I would push hard for as much press as possible to bring the movement into more mainstream consciousness."
While we can and should celebrate success, we note we have a long way to go to in building awareness of cohousing, and easing the path for forming groups. Joelyn Malone at 20 year-old Monetery Cohousing in Minneapolis commented “It would be lovely to have a brand-spanking-new cohousing community in our area that would generate some excitement…..All the groups that have come and gone during that time give up when they see that housing development is not an amateur sport, hugely expensive and extremely risky.
Fred Olson, our coho-l manager, commented: "While the NOH Day is great it does by it's nature tend to promote cohousing in areas where cohousing is thriving and not where promotion is needed most -- in areas where cohousing has not taken hold."
A few other survey comments:
"People from the neighboring area who always wondered about the community but had never visited came and were so glad to find out about it." Two Eco Cohousing (Brunswick, Maine)
"It offered a compelling reason for potential members from out of state to visit." Pat McAulay, Village Hearth Cohousing (Durham NC)
"The hook of the national day enabled us to land a great article in our daily newspaper, and that drew in most of the people who attended." Jane Ellen Bleeg, Flower City Cohousing (Rochester New York)
"We SOLD a 2 bedroom Unit!!" Susana Michaelis, Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community
"A huge effort this 1st time. Next time will have resources & connections established; will know the ropes." Stephanie Fassacht, Village Cohousing Community (Madison, Wisconsin)