Back in college, we spent a year living in a co-op. The “Joint House” (known because of the connecting room in the center, of course) was definitely an experience – it was old, rundown and more than a little dirty. But we did enjoy the camaraderie built into the environment. We cooked together, ate together and (barely) cleaned together, every day of the week.
Co-housing has since made its way off college campuses and into neighborhoods, where residents can eat, garden, socialize and make decisions as a group, while all living in their own private residences.
The newest spot to employ these philosophies is NE Portland’s Columbia Ecovillage. At a glance, it sounds like any other condo project – the owners are taking five rundown apartment buildings and converting them into 37 condos – but this one includes a permaculture garden, chicken coop and guest house with laundry room and meeting space. Inside, the former apartments will get green upgrades including new insulation, HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, radiant heating and a bank of solar panels. The condos range in size from studios sold at $148,000 to three-bedroom units at $330,000.
The homeowners association screens applicants to ensure their values mesh with the community’s vision. This translates to neighbors who are willing to help with building maintenance, gardening and some group meals and activities. Several haven’t passed the screening.
So what do you think? Utopian vision (think modified kibbutz) or too close for comfort?
For more on Columbia Ecovillage, click here. For the membership process and suggested reading materials, click here. And for similar projects in Portland, see Trillium Hollow, Cascadia Commons, Peninsula Park Commons and Daybreak Cohousing.