Cohousing Impact on the Greater Neighborhood – Sharings

Takoma Village was the first new housing development in our neighborhood in eons. The neighborhood was considered by some as dangerous. Don’t walk home from the Metro after 9:00. Body found ….. Mugging…. Stuff like that but not as often as when I lived in NYC.

I think the community was a spur to later development and welcomed by this neighborhood. There was fear that we would become a gated community. That I know of there were no palpable fears about hippies. But Takoma Park MD is pretty crunchy so I think people were probably less sensitive than in other places. In Florida at a hearing on zoning, the neighbors were convinced that cohousing was synonymous with nudist.

One incident in DC, I remember, was the first tour for the neighborhood. I was explaining the laundry room and saying that we were going to put a clothesline on the lawn outside the window. One of the African American women in the group stood very tall and said, “Not in this neighborhood you don’t.” The others agreed. We were ahead of the curve on hanging laundry outside being a good thing rather than a sign of impoverishment. In an African American neighborhood this was palpable. We nixed the clothesline.

The bigger impact, as others have said, is that we brought a new wave of professionals and socially conscious people to the neighborhood. The first wave had been in the late 1960s and early 1970s when young professionals moved in to rehab the old bungalows and Victorians. (They are now the old guard.) This is not to say that there were none before. The neighborhood is a very diverse, well-organized neighborhood that includes many city leaders. We didn’t raise the bar. We were just a younger wave.

And we also have residents all over the DC and federal governments. Many non-profits. Energy department. Non-profits related to energy. The World Bank. Nader’s organization. Finance and Taxation. Stuff like that.

Sharon Villines

Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC


We have coho members on the historical commission, the library board, and on the finance committee of the town of Berlin, MA. One person is active in the local lions club. The town loves those things.
We preserved many acres of land as conservation land between two other pieces of land. That is better than the alternative which had planned to put houses up into that sliver, splitting the two conservation plots from each other.

The town loves that.

We added a group of eight year olds enough that the school had to add a second class, which then has moved up through the system–a staffing nightmare of needing two teachers for one, different grade each year. That after “we promised them that all our kids will be in private school and home schooled.” (We believe we actually said “most kids” and that is probably true, but still.) They don’t like that as much.

We come out to town meetings and listen to the issues and support important town things (accessibility and police cars and development projects and the like). The town loves that.

We come out and vote in regular elections, making our town an odd blue dot in a sea of red towns. Not sure folk actually love that!!

When politicians come round we invite them to our next social so they can meet lots of folk at once. Politicians love that.

(The Rev.) Elizabeth M. Magill, Mosaic Commons, Berlin MA


During planning, neighbours were concerned about the potential “commune” ruining the neighbourhood, and what! having lots of children there?! The City approved of our concept, the multi-family dwelling, architecturally designed, etc. and granted a number of easements in trade for four affordable units built in for perpetuity.

One of our long time residents has applied for a number of awards and grants for us over the years, (garden awards, sustainability awards, open house tours) and we’ve won a number; that kind of activity generates recognition in the community.

Our street front gardens where we grow food, herbs and flowers is very popular with passers by. The City gave us a license to use a 12 x 12 foot section of boulevard for growing food in raised beds about 15 years ago, and that too is well received as a model for others to follow.

One of our common space rooms is a midwifery clinic, so we have regular visitors that are expectant parents; they hold their post natal family get-togethers in our common house. Future generations will remember Quayside Village with its inviting courtyard with fish in the pond!
It’s all “good in the hood” here in North Van!


Quayside Village (urban) Cohousing in North Vancouver, BC Canada


Here at Eastern Village Cohousing (EVC), some of our original members founded the neighborhood association for the South Silver Spring area. Once founded, they recruited representatives from the surrounding buildings and advocated for more services and gave us a voice with the County. Over the years, EVC has hosted lots of events with local officials and candidates and invited folks from the greater neighborhood. We have also been a strong voice for getting a better polling place.

When we moved in in 2004, there was prostitution in the hotel down the block from us and we pressured the county and the hotel to act. We have participated in getting school bus stops nearer to us, and gave the neighborhood a voice in the county’s school assignment area decisions.

We are seeing indirect effects as well. Some of the apartment buildings constructed since we moved in decided to add roof decks and even some green roof space like we have. And one of the new buildings down the block is advertising its courtyard as a place to meet your neighbors.

-Jessie Handforth Kome

Eastern Village Cohousing, Silver Spring, Maryland


I offer Corollary 2: Did anyone ever say ‘thanks’?

As an example, The Frederick Cohousing Partnership spent five years planning for our future community in Maryland to be a pedestrian scale cohousing community in a convenient location with community sewer and water systems to avoid community health risks and also avoid any ecological contamination. Our final site selection in 1995 was a 27 acre farm on the edge of a rural community, Libertytown, coincidentally next door to a 105 acre Regional Park, planned for County ownership and operation for active recreation. Neither had public sewer or water. However the 35 home subdivision across the road did have a limited use community water system based on three local wells and a small chlorinated package water treatment plant with inadequate pressure to meet the peak demand of the existing subdivision. The County also had a local sewerage treatment plant which had sewer lines located too high in elevation to serve either the low lying park or our site of choice. The Parks & Recreation Department had capital funds to develop recreation facilities, access road and parking but none for sewer or water and planned to operate indefinitely on port-a-johns.

How can I fit a 3 year story into two paragraphs? We planned a water system extension to serve Liberty Village from the existing subdivision wells by designing, funding and building a 22,000 gallon pressurized standing water tank to be established in the existing subdivision which optimized the available water supply by providing reserves to meet peak demands for both the subdivision and our newly planned community.

We also planned, designed and funded a sewerage system with a lift station and force main and located it adjacent to the park property line with an easement so the Park Department could connect a gravity sewer into our system extension. The park completed a new concession and restroom facility with the funds that otherwise would have only funded restrooms and a sewer treatment lift package of its own.

The beauty of working out a resolution of mutual problems with a neighbor is that both parties may become better off at less expense than working on two parallel less satisfactory alternatives. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the older subdivision, the Parks Department, or county government ever said, “Thanks.”

Tom Lofft Liberty Village, MD

Category: stories from the trenches

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