NEVADA CITY, California — “This is an exceptional time and we are witnessing remarkable benefits to cohousing lifestyles. Cohousing communities are holding together and supporting one another through the COVID-19 pandemic, “states architect Charles Durrett who just co-authored a new book on the process of creating a cohousing community with gerontologist, Alexandria Levitt. 

Cohousing is a planned community consisting of private homes clustered around shared space. While each attached or single-family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen, there are shared spaces that reflect each community—often with shared community kitchen, lodge house, gardens and outdoor spaces. The legal structure is typically a homeowner association or housing cooperative

“What we just saw at Quimper Village in Port Townsend, Washington were people sheltering in place and helping to share grocery shopping, collecting routine prescriptions as a group, rather than household, and overall tremendously reducing risks while maintaining social ties and contacts within the cohousing community. In other words, cohousing works for greatly reducing contact while avoiding isolation and creating a support network in general. They do tai chi a couple of times a day, while staying 10 feet from each other.” Other communities are doing well with social distancing because they are not socially isolated. “We do not feel like we are socially isolated” said Susan Burwen of Mountain View Senior Cohousing, “At Durrett’s community like most others folks are picking up prescriptions, groceries and more for folks who should not venture out, as well as social activities at a distance.”

Durrett sees the importance of documenting the process communities take in developing cohousing, including their successes and some less than stellar actions. The new book, State-Of-The-Art Cohousing: Lessons Learned from Quimper Village very concisely describes the process, with lots of cohousing community member input.

Here’s a few thoughts from the Introduction of State-Of-The-Art Cohousing: Lessons Learned from Quimper Village

“In 1992 MDA converted an old, dilapidated industrial building in very urban Emeryville California into a new cohousing community. It was and still is a very successful community and Katie & I loved living there for 12 years. There were waves of queries early on and the community was inundated with visitors and questions. At first, the residents didn’t consider the one-visitor-at-a-time too much. Then, after about two years, they said, “No more.” And it makes sense. It was inconvenient in time and a distraction to the community. This budding new neighborhood grew weary of the attention and wanted to focus on fostering their own private community and getting on with their lives!

We should have done a book then about that project, the advantages, disadvantages, and how it was done. And we should have done a book about each successful scenario — Davis, Mountain View, and many more. We’d have more cohousing in the U.S. if we’d done so. 

This book is a unique and important story of how one group, Quimper Village, accomplished, start to finish, one project. Of course, each community is unique and we get that. But sometimes it’s a good idea to know exactly how some other group did it and then consciously and deliberately deviate from that clear point of departure.

As senior activist Bill Thomas likes to point out,

“If you could put 20 seniors on a boat and take them out to a deserted island, they will do a better job of providing for themselves than any institution that we have yet to create.”

Quimper Village proves this hypothesis. This is the story of their voyage. How they prepared, how they launched, the voyage itself, how they landed, and now how they have settled.” —Charles Durrett, Introduction, State-Of-The-Art Cohousing: Lessons Learned from Quimper Villagenow available from Amazon.com

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