Cohousing - A Vision For Sustainable Community
I am Bruford Low - Father of two adult children, musician and composer, XR arrestee, and plumber.
In the face of the global climate emergency it’s not enough to wait for governments, corporate businesses or other institutions to lead the way. We must take action as individuals and in small groups. While protesting is an important tactic, I believe that we also need to take positive action, seeking to create alternative ways of living. Cohousing offers the opportunity to build communities that are human-scale and sustainable, both in ecological terms and as a way of living consciously and purposefully.
I am co-founder of an intentional cohousing community project. I want to share our story so far, seek people to join us and to advocate for cohousing generally.
What is Cohousing?
Cohousing is a community of dwellings clustered around a shared space which typically features a common house. This can be a single building or a series of structures, and usually includes a communal kitchen and spaces for dining and recreation. Cohousing dwellings are often smaller than the norm, given that more time and activity takes place in a community environment. Other shared facilities can include a laundry, car pool, allotments and tools. The balance between the private and the communal varies both from community to community and between individuals within a community. Socialising is never compulsory, and privacy is respected. Communities have a legal structure and residents meet up to agree regulations, maintenance, working parties and social events. Cohousing facilitates neighbour socialisation and provides environmental, economic and practical benefits.
There is a wide diversity of cohousing models, sizes, ownership forms and levels of resident integration. Cohousing can be driven by housing need in a particular location. In areas where affordable housing is scarce, local people can form Community Land Trusts and purchase (typically brown-field) land. Developments may include social rented housing within a scheme. In the case of my project and others, people with a common purpose but who are geographically diverse will form a community, selecting a location based on a set of agreed criteria.
What needs does cohousing help to meet?
Not only is our current way of life damaging to the planet, many of us are not driven or fulfilled by the consumerist lifestyle. However, we can choose to make changes. We can view others as collaborators not competitors. We can come together to find fulfilment in shared endeavour. We can be stewards of resources instead of consumers. These personal and global aspirations can well be served in the context of cohousing. At a small community level, projects such as producing renewable energy become feasible. Shared land makes growing food more practical and can provide space for small enterprises. Eating, celebrating and working together brings a sense of belonging and satisfaction and speaks to the tribal ancestor within each of us.
Cohousing is not without its challenges. Living in close proximity with so much time spent together can bring tension and conflict. Successful communities will have protocols agreed and in place to provide mediation and resolution. In effect, cohousing community provides the personal agency that many of us lack in the way we live within the conventional model of society.
Intentional Community Living In Harmony And Respect
I am one of four founders of ICLIHAR. We have known each other for over twenty years and met though a family camping organisation. The idea for a cohousing community was born out of several years of discussions around a campfire. We started working on the project in 2017. Our long-term plan is to have between 10 and 15 households on a site suitable for producing all of our own energy and growing a proportion of our food. We would like room to host camping groups and I am planning to run residential creative courses. Other enterprises and activities - such as woodland management or re-wilding - will be dependent upon the property we acquire. We intend to purchase the property between the four of us by means of a company. We will be inviting people to join us, initially by purchasing a leasehold property. Later phases may include the option of renting. Ownership of the land and common buildings will be transferred into a not-for-profit company in which, residents will be shareholders. We are currently looking for suitable properties and are focussing our search on Wales. We have a young couple and a family of five who are signed up to join us once we have a habitable property. Our plan is to have acquired a property and moved onsite by 1st January 2021.
If any of this resonates with you, I invite you do some research and consider what cohousing might have to offer you. I am happy to talk to people, whether you are interested in ICLIHAR specifically or intentional community in general.