Creating Sustainable Neighborhoods; Learning from the Cohousing Experience

Sustainability… this slippery, compelling, full-of-promise word is applied to so many things. The theme of the 2012 National Conference is Creating Sustainable Neighborhoods; Learning from the Cohousing Experience. To be held in the San Francisco bay area, this gathering will be in the back yards of some of the most diverse and urban Cohousing communities in the country – Swan’s Market, a dense and multicultural urban cohousing community ( ); and Temescal Creek, a retrofit neighborhood, both in Oakland. ( )

In its third decade in the United States, cohousing is stepping into greater national attention as a vibrant and important response to the hunger for community and connection, as well as the longing so many feel for a different way to live their lives. With the breakdown of the traditional housing and finance sectors, innovation and design development is shaping cohousing communities in response to these times.

Both of the Oakland neighborhoods cited above underscore innovations in cohousing, pointing the way to critical conversations about sustainability and creating sustainable neighborhoods. For example: How does inclusivity - racial, ethnic, income & affordability - contribute to creating sustainable neighborhoods? What strategic partnerships can be created with other housing models while keeping to the six defining characteristics of a cohousing community? (

The affordability workshop at the 2011 conference was jam-packed. Participants from communities with homes that are not selling wanted to know how they could make these homes more affordable. Forming communities wanted to know how to design a community that would pencil out for working families, as well as open their process to include people from racial and ethnic backgrounds different from their own.

Inclusivity is a basic part of community equity and neighborhood sustainability. How does the cohousing movement talk about inclusivity? Who are our partners in this conversation? What else does sustainability mean? I welcome your thoughts and comments!

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