ashland.news
May 23, 2024

Ashland Cohousing to host open house Sunday

The 1.3-acre Ashland Cohousing community on Calypso Court in Ashland has 13 residences plus a common house. Ashland Cohousing photo
May 4, 2023

Opened in 2007, site has 13 residences plus a common house

By Debora Gordon for Ashland.news

Like open houses? How about an open cohouse? It’s a relatively new housing arrangement, and Ashland has its very own example, which will be open this weekend, which happens to be National Cohousing Open House Weekend.

Cohousing is, according to The Cohousing Association of the United States, “an intentional, collaborative neighborhood that combines private homes with shared indoor and outdoor spaces designed to support an active and interdependent community life.”

The Common House includes a front porch, washer/dryer, complete kitchen, bedrooms, and a living room/dining area which is used for community meals, meetings and other gatherings. Debora Gordon photo

Interested Ashland residents are invited to visit Ashland Cohousing on Sunday, May 7.

Cohousing began in Denmark in the 1960s, with the earliest cohousing communities established in 1967.

Ashland Cohousing, which was founded in 2003 by original and ongoing resident, Melanie Mindlin, as well as others, four of whom still live in the 1.3-acre site on Calypso Court completed in 2007. It is a neighborhood of 14 houses, 12 of which are occupied by the owners, one of which is rented, and one is the common house, which is available for common meals, guests, meetings and a variety of activities from movie nights to singing, games, and arts and crafts, though some of these went on hiatus during the height of the Corona virus and are slowly making a comeback.

‘Cohousing’
The Cohousing website defines cohousing as “community intentionally designed with ample common spaces surrounded by private homes. Collaborative spaces typically include a common house with a large kitchen and dining room, laundry, and recreational areas and outdoor walkways, open space, gardens, and parking. Neighbors use these spaces to play together, cook for one another, share tools, and work collaboratively. Common property is managed and maintained by community members, providing even more opportunities for growing relationships.”
It also describes the community as “people living together in neighborhoods designed for community interaction and personal privacy.”

Mindlin describes one of the unique facets of cohousing life as “the opportunity to really know your neighbors well, which is rare in these times. Sometimes people talk about a return to how it was when you lived in a small town and knew everybody. So, at least within your cohousing community, you have the opportunity to know everyone living near you in an intimate way; and knowing each other so well generally leads to being helpful, cooperative, sharing various things. That’s what brings most people to cohousing. It is certainly why I live here.”

Melanie Mindlin

While all stories are different, Mindlin’s interest in cohousing started early in life.

“I had been interested in intentional community for all of my adult life,” she said in an interview. “I had considered moving to something more like a commune, but I was daunted by the level of complexity and inter-relationships, especially financially. I was drawn to the idea when the book came out, ‘Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities’ by Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant. They went to Denmark where cohousing started; and came back and wrote the book.

“I read the book soon after it came out and I was ‘That sounds like a really good idea.’ There were a lot of people who went through our group during the formation process, but either ended up not having the money or not having the patience to wait. Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to housing except when they actually need it. And to wait for four or five years is more than most people would wait.”

Along with Mindlin, two of the founding members remain; the other houses have changed owners once or twice.

Mindlin also notes that “There are often misconceptions about cohousing, such as expecting it to be more communal than it is. And legally, we are formed like any other townhouse with a homeowners association. And our terms are what they call ‘fee simple’ in real estate, so you can buy them and sell them. That’s probably the biggest misconception that someone hearing about it from the outside.”

Among those who are reaping great benefits from cohousing are the children.

“The kids are having a fantastic time; and they occasionally have sibling-type rivalry; they relate more like siblings than ordinary neighbors,” Mindlin said. She described kids as “the glue of the community. Their desire to be together brings first their parents and then everyone into the room, or out of their houses, into the communal space. They draw people into community, into behaving like a village.”

In terms of helping create the community, she added, “They also have an enthusiasm for having meals together, for having parties together for being together, they have an innocent naïve enthusiasm that brings the rest of us along.”

Ashland Cohousing invites interested people to come to the open house from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at 1230 Calypso Court.

More information is available on the website at ashlandcoho.com.

Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

May 5 update: Number of remaining original residents corrected.

The garden produces a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the year and is maintained by the members of the cohousing community. Debora Gordon photo
Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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