Thoughts on Intergenerational Possibilities at Durham Coho
Note: Durham Central Park Cohousing is a single condo building in downtown Durham. While we do not restrict ourselves to adults or seniors, our current residents are all baby boomers or older. The question of whether and how to recruit families was a recent discussion.
Faced with the question of what our future coho population might be like in ten years, I talked with my kids, Kemen Austin and Eric Thomas. They are now young professionals in our community, they currently live in a 1250 sq.ft. condo they own, and are soon to be young parents. They are part of the cohort we would need to recruit, if we wanted to have an intergenerational population at Durham Coho.
Here is a summary of their reactions to my questions, “Would you ever consider moving into this or a similar cohousing project in Durham? And if so, what would it take to entice or encourage you?”
1) Critical Mass. They explained that there would need to be a critical mass of at least 6 young families (or one whole floor) for there to be a sense of a community of same age cohorts.
2) Flexibility. They would want an understanding that the coho commitment would likely be bookended, for a finite amount of time. They offered:
–The apartments might work with 1 kid, but not more. All the spaces are too small and not configured easily for 2+ kids;
–Durham Coho condos might serve a family with a young child, but is likely not suited well to teens with needs for odd hours and noise making and extra privacy.
–Therefore, young families would probably stay less than 10 years, so there might be more turnover than with older cohorts.
3) Childcare. They felt that childcare would organically become shared among the parents. They would not expect non-parents to shoulder any of the care.
4) Play Space. Because they had lived near Arcadia Cohousing in Carrboro (NC), they had seen the ample play space for children there and were well aware that we did not have that kind of space. However, they thought the Durham Central Park (an urban park adjacent to Durham Coho) was a comparable asset.
5) Coho Duties. They said, based on their observations of our work and meeting duties, that they felt they couldn’t shoulder those and manage professional careers and parent their kids well. Kemen suggested that this coho disposition seemed the most daunting.
6) Coho Costs. While they acknowledged that our coho units were more expensive than comparably sized regular single family homes or condos around town, their contemporaries were buying houses in the 250K-400K range. So, our costs are not absolutely prohibitive.
Their responses came from a place of deep affection for us and our coho project. They have many friends among us, have even helped design our outdoor spaces and have spent countless hours in our spaces. So, they are among our critically-minded friends, offering thoughts for our future.