CoHousing Solutions Newsletter | April 2021

"I hope that within our communities we can create a safe place for people to explore uncomfortable issues, and that we do not get "too comfortable." And instead, we will struggle with how to be more open to diversity within our communities and focus on how we actively engage with our larger neighborhoods, cities and counties to create the more just and caring world we seek.
If cohousing only serves those who can afford to live there, then we become just another form of gated community, comfortable in our own privilege. But if we build communities that support individuals in a way that inspires us to become more engaged and invites us to look at how we can work more effectively in creating a better world for all, then we can be a part of creating that more inclusive world.
We have had hundreds of years of housing segregation enforced both by law and culture. It will be many years of actively working against this history to create truly open housing opportunities.”

-Katie McCamant
CoHousing Solutions President

Diversity in cohousing is not a new topic, but it is a conversation that is increasingly at the forefront of forming communities as the discussion has grown nationally in all aspects of contemporary life. This subject is not easy to approach, it requires lots of unlearning, listening, and often times uncomfortable introspection. It is not a topic that we can decipher alone, and takes the coming together of various groups and demographics to begin to understand the root of the problem, and how we can affect change in our own lives and communities.
Cohousing groups tend to want to take on all the issues of the contemporary world, and yet, that desire can easily bog down a group so much that they can’t move forward at all, and end up disbanding. For example, with extraordinary increases in construction costs, and relatively little government funding allocated toward affordable housing, how can a community include greater affordably in their neighborhood? This is a huge challenge, especially because affordable housing resources tend toward the efficiency of scale so it is easier to fund a 50-unit 100% affordable community than a few homes within a market-rate community. And yet, communities have been successful in encouraging rentals (rooms within a home, or a whole home) and creative ways to help people buy in.
As consultants for cohousing communities, these are a few of the struggles that we work on daily with our forming communities:
  • How do we help communities get to a core vision that is buildable while we continue to challenge ourselves on what is possible?
  • How can we broaden who participates in our communities while holding onto the core values that bring us together?
  • How diverse can a community be before it is no longer functions as a community?
  • What do we even mean by diversity?
Washington Commons in West Sacramento, CA is exploring these issues with consultant, Dr. Stacie Walton. Dr. Walton is a retired Kaiser pediatrician now focusing her considerable talents toward racial healing. Like many cohousing communities, Washington Commons aspires to have a multigenerational, multicultural, inclusive community. Through a series of "Lunch and Learn" workshops, Dr. Walton is coaching the Washington Commons community to become more culturally sensitive, and how to appropriately approach outreach to more diverse communities in the Sacramento area.
"As a result of my experiential and interactive workshops, individuals and organizations can use the strategies that support communication with patients that becomes more efficient, equitable, empathetic, and effective.

I help individuals and organizations develop the foundational principles and build resilience to make 'good trouble' and make 'anti-racist' choices in their everyday lives."

-Dr. Stacie Walton
Dr. Walton has been helping the Washington Commons group outline strategic steps they can make to create a more diverse environment. These steps include redesigning our website to welcome more diversity, identifying and initiating a list of local organizations to collaborate with, outlining economic options for first time homebuyers and others with limited financial resources, and establish focus groups to query in a neutral environment people of color who had shown interest in Washington Commons at one point to learn more about how our process can be improved.
"I personally think the most powerful thing that Stacie did for us was to engage us in a way that mobilized our intention. Opening ourselves up to diversity had been something we were desiring, but without any sense of efficacy.

She is a gifted and generous coach. She has helped us to see how we can be more welcoming; and is helping us to become culturally sensitive. We have created a Diversity Committee and an action plan that we are beginning to implement. Our community is excited about the possibilities.
This is a time of racial healing for our nation and for each of us. We have the opportunity to face our fears and remove the barriers that separate us. Washington Commons truly welcomes all ages, races and cultural communities.

With her help, the Washington Commons community feels like we are beginning to embody our mission statement more than ever before: Our daring effort to live well with care for each other and the environment, learn from each other, respect our differences, and make great community decisions."

-Anne Geraghty, Washington Commons

Another one of our clients, Rooted NW, has engaged Crystal Byrd Farmer, author of The Token: Common sense Ideas for increasing diversity in your organization, to work with them, challenging the Rooted members to think more broadly about diversity and what they can do to encourage greater diversity in their community and its farm.
Crystal is offering a 5-week training with The Foundation for Intentional Community in June entitled “Building Diverse and Inclusive Communities”

"I help communities do the internal work of understanding their own identity, privilege, and bias in order to recognize the experiences of others and help them feel welcome in community."

-Crystal Byrd Farmer

We encourage all communities (and individuals) to seek out resources like Dr. Stacie Walton and Crystal Farmer, who can help guide you through your journey to become a more effective ally. This is difficult work, but it is important work, and we cannot do it alone. The challenge is not just to form a diversity committee, but to incorporate how we think about these issues in everything we do. Like community, it is an ongoing evolving process as we challenge ourselves to create a more inclusive and welcoming world.

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.
CoHousing Solutions
(530) 478-1970
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