“Cohousing Really Is a Response to Isolation,” Project Manager Says
| Members of Coho Cohousing gather to discuss their new neighborhood, and listen to Bruce’s accordion.
January 9, 2007 – In the waning hours of 2006, Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services, a NeighborWorks member, had much to celebrate as its flagship cohousing project had only two unsold units, from a total of 34 units available just nine months ago.
The project known as Coho Cohousing, which sits on a 6.8 acre site purchased from Benton County, celebrated its groundbreaking this past April and has promised to deliver a 34-home development in south Corvallis by September 2007. The April ceremony marked the “end of the beginning” pre-construction phase of the project, in which years of work by way of countless meetings, annexation campaigns, and potluck dinners led to the development becoming a reality. Corvallis, a town that boasts the highest education level in Oregon, has more than 60 miles of bike paths, trails, and roadside bicycle lanes, and according to Frommer’s Cities Ranked & Rated, is ranked 10th best city in the United States.
In an effort to compensate for time needed to complete construction on the 34 homes, prices have been locked at the 2006 market value, even though Corvallis’ market is expected to appreciate at around 10 percent for the next few years. Along with the private purchase of their homes, residents will share in the ownership of 6.8 acres and the nearly 3,000 square foot common house, one of the central principles behind cohousing living.
Danish Housing Concept Caught on in U.S.
Cohousing, an idea that originated in Denmark in the 1960s, and later came to the U.S. in the 1980s, is a type of collaborative housing where residents actively participate in the design, development, and management of their own neighborhoods. With the cohousing model, privately owned homes are clustered closely together, and can include a community garden and common house, where residents may plan meals together and other social events. Since its import from Denmark in the early 1980s, cohousing has grown significantly in the United States, with more than 80 communities currently in full swing, with another 100 in the design and development phrase.
"Cohousing really is a response to isolation, and how we have traditionally built homes, where in the past people were more spread out, and less in touch,” said Coho Cohousing project manager Bruce Hecht. “It’s really all about relationships.”
|The development of the common house design is very democratic, as seen with this recent meeting.
The development, also known as Coho Ecovillage, will accommodate a variety of housing populations, including people of low-income, single-parent families, older persons, and people with disabilities. Among those accommodations is Coho’s commitment to affordability, at which 30 percent of homes are designated for low-income buyers, whose income must be 80 percent or less than the median income for Benton County, Oregon. Moreover, first-time buyers are required to enroll in a first-time buyer’s class with Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services (CNHS).
And for single-parent families and senior citizens, the Coho neighborhood will provide support based on its commitment to community participation and architectural design. “Cohousing by its very nature is intergenerational,” Hecht said. “We have all ages living within the same community, because for senior citizens, the fact [that the cohousing design] is a pedestrian-oriented livable community, means we don’t have to isolate seniors,” he explained. “And because we will have a planned community meal schedule [in the common house] means that single-parent mothers do not have to cook every night by themselves.”
Among the many people that the new neighborhood seeks to accommodate, the Corvallis project will be the first community housing development nationwide to include people with developmental disabilities. Home Life, the nonprofit organization that provides services to adults with developmental disabilities, has purchased a four-bedroom condominium within the 34 units that make up the Coho neighborhood. The program will provide long-term support to at least three people on the Benton County wait list who are in need of comprehensive services.
One of the many design and development concepts behind cohousing is its de-emphasis on the automobile. Coho stakeholders underscore that design idea, explaining that post World War II suburban communities centered on extensive highways and road, whereas cohousing “encourages connections between people” and are pedestrian-oriented communities. “Parking and streets are on the periphery of the community,” members of CoHo explain. “We encourage the use of alternative means of transportation by locating our community within walking distance of the bus line and within biking distance of downtown Corvallis.”
Although CNHS held its ceremonial groundbreaking in April of 2006, the first bulldozer broke ground on the project in September, and by the end of 2006, only two remaining units were available. By August 2007, according to Hecht, the first residents of Coho Cohousing will be ready to move in.
To read more about the Coho Cohousing plan, you can visit http://www.cohoecovillage.org/index.shtml.
To learn more about cohousing nationwide, visit the web site of The Cohousing Association of the United States.
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