he Questions We Learned to Ask Ourselves in Portland
by Karen Gimnig
The conference in Portland gave the cohousing movement much to ponder, or to use the word Courtney Martin used in her keynote, much provocation for us to continue to grow, not only in our numbers but in our values and our impact.
Cohousing came to the US as an architects' answer to how to live a better life, a social life, a community life. Traditionally, cohousing has been described by its architecture (clustered homes, common house, pedestrian pathways), and by the ways we engage socially (common meals, consensus governance, self management). As we came together in Portland, we asked ourselves whether we could be more.
More diverse, more affordable, more accessible, more impactful.
These themes appeared in conference planning as the NextGen movement was launched. They were spoken in Portland at the pre-conference Board of Directors retreat, contemplating future goals for the Cohousing Association and the question of “Why CoHousing?”. They threaded themselves in and out of our weekend together in the public presentation, in sessions, in side conversations, in the Keynote, and perhaps most of all in the energy among and between us all.
Even as we celebrated all that cohousing already is, we found ourselves asking what cohousing will be, what it can be, what we can do through cohousing to create a world that reflects our values and enters our dreams.
We asked what we can do to welcome not only the seniors who are bringing more cohousing to the US than any other group, but also the next generation of cohousers, young singles, families and children. We noted that it is not merely a matter of telling them about cohousing, it is also necessary to pay attention to their needs: spaces that are affordable, spaces that can be rented, spaces that are near their jobs and social groups (often urban).
We asked what we can do to welcome diversity of wealth. What strategies can we use in an ever-climbing real estate market to bring down the cost of living in cohousing? Can we access government programs or partner with charities? Can we change the way we build or what we build? Can we shift the financial structures of our communities to focus less on financial investment and more on social investment?
We asked how we can increase the diversity of race, ethnicity and culture in our communities. What are the ways in which we unconsciously cater to people like us even as we wish we lived with more differences? How can we shift from an intention of welcome to an impact of making all welcome? What learning and awareness do we lack?
We asked how we, a movement of housing, can engage with those who have no house at all? What can we offer? What learnings can we share? How can the characteristics of community we treasure be shared for those who have none?
This is an exciting and
expansive time for
cohousing.We will be exploring these questions and more in the months to come in Webchats, Cohousing-L, Facebook, our blog, regional events, and more. Please
join the conversations
and be part of the future of cohousing.