Neighborliness

Neighbor 1“The disappearance of these once-central relationships—between people who are familiar but not close, or friendly but not intimate—lies at the root of America’s economic woes and political gridlock.”

The Vanishing Neighbor, Marc Dunkelman

Have you talked with a neighbor today?
Would you recognize them at the store?
Would you know if tomorrow’s their birthday?

CITYLAB (from The Atlantic) released a fascinating article Aug 19th: Why Won’t You Be My Neighbor? based on recent data about neighborhood interactions. Striking facts, indicating a steady downward trend in interactions with one’s neighbors, even at the most basic level of knowing their (not just their dogs’) names. “We live in more sprawling communities, where people are literally living further from one another.” Fenced in & tuned out, some would say.

1/3 of Americans have never interacted with people living next door

<20% of Americans spend time regularly with people living next door

Only 1/3 of the population says, “most people can be trusted” – fallen from a majority in the 1970s

“There was this sort of cohort effect [in the 1920s-1960s] in which people…were more inclined in many cases to find security that existed in neighborhoods,” says Marc Dunkelman, who studied the shift in American communities for his book The Vanishing Neighbor (quoted above). “They depended on one another much more.”

Cohousing may not the be-all-end-all to building stronger neighborhoods, but breaking down perceived barriers to interaction (car-centered dwellings, lack of sidewalks/neighborhood walkability, perceptions of unfriendliness, etc.) goes quite a long ways towards fostered camaraderie; which, by the way, is itself defined as “mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.”

As any seasoned cohouser would likely tell you, spending quality time together is inherent in the fabric of these neighborhoods from move-in day on. You won’t walk out on your porch one day to find a new tenant moving in next door unannounced. Cohousing builds community bonds on a daily basis; say, from the simple act of arriving home from a trip to walk past the common house (oh right, tonight’s the harvest gathering! better dig up those cut-outs for the kids to carve with) to passing by a neighbor’s open door (looks like Julie’s back home visiting from college, I’ll stop by later to say hi) to finally arriving at your door to find a welcome back home! pumpkin bread and note on your porch.

Although I don’t myself live in cohousing, I’ve heard enough of these stories to know they’re commonplace, and a crucial part of just why these types of communities are not only successful but wholly necessary in our world today.

It’s no exaggeration to say we’re happier, healthier, longer-living people with these daily social interactions in our lives. Not simply feeling like another face behind a door or car-driver backing out of the carport, but a person who’s relied upon, and who can rely upon others nearby when necessary. A parent whose child seeks out spontaneous play dates both with a friend their age two doors down and an eighty-five-year-old adopted grandparent, eager to show off his model train collection. A seventy-year-old single woman who, having recently lost a spouse, finds community in common meals three times a week, where she can break bread with neighbors to honor her late husbands’ memory.

In cohousing communities your neighbor has more than just a name; they have a common meal specialty, a go-to skill, an evolving relationship with their neighbors – they can’t possibly be faceless. Neighbors tackle issues together, plan parties together and honor the passage of friends and neighbors together. Maybe we won’t solve the world’s problems on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood scale, but building bonds there is certainly not a bad place to start. And that’s why now, more than ever, community is truly priceless.

FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC, CHECK OUT THE LINKS BELOW:

Jenny Godwin
CoHousing Solutions

It takes a village: the Temescal Creek Cohousing Community

Love this interview with cohousing activist Karen Hester of Temescal Creek Cohousing in Oakland, CA. This is one of two retrofit infill projects Katie of CoHousing Solutions worked on in that neighborhood in the 1990’s.

Offers such a great model of fitting into and strengthening an existing neighborhood. Been fun to see how they have settled in and continued growing, now an established part of a very up-and-coming neighborhood.

Click here to listen to the interview on KALW radio in San Francisco

Learn more about Temescal Creek’s vision in this Coho/US post

Stone Curves Turns 10 with Strong Sense of Community

Earlier this week, there was an excellent article about cohousing for families in the Arizona Daily Star. The article featured Stones Curves Cohousing in Tucson, AZ.

Said Ben Sargus, 11, “When we were at my old neighborhood I could only play with my friends on the weekends. Now when I finish my homework, I knock on doors and have friends to play with.”

“I love the interesting, diverse people in the neighborhood,” Gardner, age 18, said. “It’s given me many interesting perspectives to grow up with and insight into different ways to look at the world.”

Read the full article here.

Why DC Residents are Moving to Cohousing Communities

This past week, a piece about senior cohousing in the DC area appeared online in Washingtonian Magazine’s March 2015 issue. The article features Ann Zabaldo, a cohousing developer and Takoma Village resident. Eastern Village Cohousing is also given mention, as is Chuck Durrett of McCamant & Durrett Architects/The Cohousing Company, who predicts that “as baby boomers and empty-nesters demand more innovative retirement options,” cohousing will see even wider adoption.

There will be a number of great opportunities to continue this conversation at the National Cohousing Conference, including at the How to Get a Senior Cohousing Community Started intensive. Additionally, Ann will be leading an in-depth case study of her home community as a session offering.

Continue reading the article here.

Photo Essay: At a Half-Mile-Long Table, Chefs, Farmers, and Volunteers Feed a Neighborhood for Free

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The above photo is from a great article written by YES! Magazine about the talk inspired over a great meal. Of course cohousers are already well aware of the power common meals bring, literally, to the table. Whether you celebrate this holiday with friends, family or neighbors, remember this opportunity to build community with every bite.

See the rest of the article by clicking here.