New Guide to Starting a Community

As seniors look for more ways to stay socially engaged, there’s a new book that can be a great resource, Building Belonging: Your Guide to Starting a Residential Intentional Community (220 pages). Yana Ludwig, the author, covers the many aspects of starting an intentional community like cohousing. For example, in Chapter 11, “Land and the Importance of Search Criteria,” she takes a deep dive into consideration of the land on which a community decides to locate.

“Land is not just the spot your community sits on,” Yana says. “Land holds both history and potential, and is not only a source of security, but also the stage your community plays out their dramas on … The modern world of real estate obfuscates much of this truth. It treats land as a commodity only, something to be consumed, bought and sold, used, and all too often used up.” 

“Community provides us with an opportunity to re-invest in a direct relationship with the land,” Yana continues. “While this is easier to see in rural places where ‘acreage’ is part of the real estate listings many of us will end up pouring through to find ‘our place,’ it is also true in urban areas. The most satisfying community experiences I’ve had have been in communities who know something of the history of the place.”


Ideological and practical

Yana goes on to describe ways in which a community can change its relationship to the land and begin the process of what she calls “decolonization.” One suggestion is to find out which indigenous tribe(s) formerly lived on the land and offer to pay “real rent” to them. Some tribes have an established program for this. For example, Real Rent Duwamish [] is a 501(c)(3) organization that accepts donations from people living in the Seattle area. Residents (and communities) can determine their own donation amount, based on what they can reasonably afford. One person quoted on the website pays $20 a month. 

Yana’s book then goes on to discuss practical aspects of choosing property (including things like zoning and building codes) and developing property search criteria, with detailed questions to consider. In short, the book seems like a “must read” for any group seeking to start a cohousing community from the ground up, whether it’s senior cohousing or multigenerational.

Building Belonging is available on, which describes it as “both a practical guide for how to start a residential intentional community and a collective framework for addressing the racial, social, ecological and economic disparities affecting all aspects of the living experience for humans, land, and its co-inhabitants. It offers an unprecedented perspective to creating intentional community that speaks directly to the reader who wants collective answers and who sees the deep benefit of community living as a key piece to addressing systemic issues.”

The book is also available on the FIC website (including a couple of reviews) and at at a discounted price.  


About Yana Ludwig

Yana has 25 years of cooperative living experience, including four community startups. She served for over a decade on the board of the Foundation for Intentional Community, and as a trainer, facilitator and consultant for progressive projects since 2005. Yana is co-author of The Cooperative Culture Handbook: A Social Change Manual to Dismantle Toxic Culture and Build Connection and author of Together Resilient: Building Community in the Age of Climate Disruption, which won the 2017 Communal Studies Association Book of the Year Award. Yana’s 2013 TEDx talk, Sustainable is Possible! (And it doesn’t suck…) kicked off an era of being a public speaker and advocate for communities. She is a founding member of the Solidarity Collective, an income sharing community in Laramie, WY. And she currently serves as the executive director of the North Coast Food Web in Astoria OR.

“One of my core beliefs in this work is that all intentional communities are doing culture change work, says Yana. “Any time we attempt deep cooperation with others, we are bucking our mainstream culture’s trends, and that means we can very quickly find ourselves in over our heads. Drawing on the lessons learned from a whole movement of people who have been doing this work for many decades is a way to cut through the fog. I’m blessed to have gotten to work with some of the movement’s most savvy leaders.”

Category: Aging in Community

Tags: Aging

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