CoHousing Solutions Newsletter | November 2019
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We've got some really inspiring stuff to share with you this month, but first, we thought you might want to know about a couple of our upcoming workshops:
Abundant Life Autism Cohousing, Kick Off Workshop
January 18-19
Alberta, Canada
(read on to learn more about this unique workshop)
Bozeman Cohousing Has LAND, Kick Off Workshop
If you regularly read our newsletters, you know how exciting it is to get land under contract. In fact, it's so exciting that Katie will be flying out to Bozeman to to congratulate everyone in person.

Jan. 10 - Katie McCamant will be giving a public presentation about cohousing.
Jan. 11 - 12 - Kick Off Workshop
Bozeman, Montana

Cohousing for All...
For many people, cohousing provides a unique comfort that would be hard to find elsewhere.

It's general inclusivity and pillars of community appeal to all types of people, but it can provide an extra piece of solace to those who face unique challenges within the housing market.
We are seeing an increase in members of minority demographics heading up cohousing projects, choosing to create their own communities that support them instead of trying to fit into the mold of an existing community that might not welcome or accommodate them. Take, for example, our client community Village Hearth in Durham, NC, the first LGBT focused cohousing community. The group formed out of a need for alternative housing options for LGBT seniors, who often face discrimination in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The community was founded by Pat McAulay and her wife, Margaret Roesch, who wanted to grow old in a community where they felt safe and welcome.

"We wanted to have a place that was safe, and where we could be ourselves, where our wedding anniversary would be celebrated, where we could hold hands in public," McAulay said.

To read a recent WRAL article about Village Hearth, click here

To see their website, click here
Like Pat McAulay, Karyn Papadatos worries about the future. She is mother to two children with disabilities and is a founding member of Aubundant Life Autism Cohousing, a community that will be built in Alberta, Canada, specifically for the neurodiverse and their families.

" Every parent with a special needs child ought to be immortal. We lie in bed at night wondering who will care for our child after we are gone. Who will protect them? Who will ensure they aren’t moved about from place to place, with little thought to roommate compatibility? What about isolation? Abuse?" Says Karyn Papadatos.

In January, our president, Katie McCamant, will be flying out to Calgary, AB, to facilitate a Kick-Off Workshop for this unique community. Joining her will be Sarah Arthurs, a recent graduate of our 500 Communities Program, and CoHousing Solutions Affiliate. Sarah has been working with the group for nearly a year, and is a champion of cohousing for the neurodiverse.

"They are frustrated with traditional housing options for adults with disabilities. It usually requires leaving the place they call home once their parents can no longer take care of them. They are creating a community that allows parents to live in their own home, in proximity to their adult child, for the rest of their lives. Their children will have their own unit, possibly with a roommate and care taker where they can learn independence. This way, they will already be set up in a supportive community that they feel comfortable in once their parents are gone.

Kevin Wiebe is another parent of a disabled child, and founding member of Abundant Life Autism. He has shared some words with us about why he believes cohousing is the best housing option for the neurodiverse community:
"As I attended the National Cohousing Conference in Portland last year, I came in as a cohousing neophyte. A pervasive theme of the conference was the question of how we can make cohousing work for a broader spectrum of the population. In particular, I was excited to meet up with people who, like me, were exploring how cohousing can include people living with disabilities.

I attended the conference as part of a fledgling team, Abundant Life Cohousing hoping to build a community in Calgary, Alberta. All of us on the team have children who are impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or a similar disability.

As individuals, we had been independently exploring long-term housing solutions for our children. For too many parents of children on the spectrum, the long-term plan is too outlive their children. We knew that this was not realistic.

We had learned about available housing options. My own son was offered a place in an apartment with one other roommate on the spectrum. In Alberta, we are fortunate that, for now, the provincial government will fund staffing for this type of arrangement. I am confident that under these circumstances, my son's physical needs would be met reasonably,  if  we could be certain that staff acted with integrity.

But my son's entire social universe would consist of his roommate, who would likely have as much trouble creating social interaction as my son; paid staff; and ourselves, as often as we could visit. As much as people with ASD struggle to create community for themselves, the majority of them desperately need it and want it. Research in Canada indicates that people with ASD experience loneliness and isolation at 2.5 times the rate of neurotypical adults. Much as there is an epidemic of loneliness in the society at large, how much worse is it for people living with disabilities?

We are also concerned about the standard of care our children might receive in traditional housing for disabilities. There are lots of people and places who do great work providing care for adults with disabilities. But there are too many situations where people with disabilities are vulnerable to abuse, sometimes unable to recognize the abuse for what it is, sometimes unable to advocate for themselves, and sometimes isolated from people who will take them seriously when they speak out. American statistics indicate that people with disabilities are  seven times  more likely to experience abuse compared to people in the general public. 

We are increasingly convinced that cohousing meets the housing challenges that our children will face through their adult lives, and so we are planning a community where "neurodiversity" will be a core value. We anticipate that about 20% of our population will be people who are living with cognitive disabilities. Some, like my son, who are in need of full-time supervision will be housed in units for individuals or roommates with space for staff - not unlike the apartment arrangement that is currently being offered to us. But this unit will be situated in a community that includes:

  • my wife and myself, so that we can visit with him often

  • families like ours, who also have children impacted by cognitive disabilities, who know and understand what ASD looks like, who can provide support, and who trust us to provide support for their children in return

  • people with ASD or other disabilities who can live and work independently, but who choose to live in an autism-friendly environment so that they be supported in finding community

  • people who believe with us that cohousing helps to meet the needs of a vulnerable group in our society, and who choose to live with us to provide social infrastructure

For our son, a community like this provides him with a much richer social universe. There are more people with whom to regularly interact, and so a better chance that he will find people that he enjoys. Since the community is intentionally sensitized to the needs of people with cognitive disabilities, there will be people who will help him learn how to construct his social network. He will have the private time that he needs, but he will also have people drawing him into community whenever he wants it.

Cohousing also provides several protective elements into the daily life of a person like my son. There will be many eyes on him, people who know what "normal" looks like for him, and who can help to redirect him when he pushes boundaries. He will have staff working with him in his apartment, but he will also have family just down the pathway. That means that if staff are seeing something that they do not understand, they have immediate access to coaching. It also means that staff are always aware of their accountability, because the whole community will be watching out for my son.

We recognize that we are doing something new by building a community with such a high percentage of people with identified disabilities, and we still have a great deal to learn. But even if we were not doing this, we believe that existing and developing cohousing communities are uniquely suited to provide places of safety, housing security, and community for people who are impacted by disability, and we encourage all cohousing communities to consider how they can include this vulnerable segment of our society.

- Kevin Wiebe, parent of young man with autism, and future resident of Abundant Life Cohousing
Interested in exploring neurodiverse communities in the US?
Urban Development Partners has recently partnered on a project called "Our Home". It will be an inclusive, cohousing-inspired community in Portland, Oregon. There will be a variety of home ownership opportunities for individuals and families of diverse abilities, ages, and income levels.
Desiree Kameka, a 500 Communities graduate and CoHousing Solutions Affiliate, is the Project Lead at Autism Housing Network. She speaks regularly about cohousing for the neurodiverse, and works with families with autistic family members, as well as with autistic adults to advocate for better housing options for the neurodiverse.
You can contact Desiree at
We're Here to Help!
We provide development consulting services to help you create your sustainable neighborhood . Our team pioneered the development of cohousing in North America, and we have helped create dozens of successful communities.
Our newest venture involves training passionate cohousing entrepreneurs through the year-long 500 Communities Program .
Photo by Ed Asmus
Architecture by McCamant & Durrett Architects
CoHousing Solutions
(530) 478-1970
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