Tiny House Cohousing?

green creek rv park

The Green Creek Hotel and RV park is the model for tiny house cohousing infrastructure. On the horizon is the Smith Mansion, which has an odd history.

On the road in Wyoming last week one night was spent at the Green Creek Inn and RV park. If you’ve stayed in camping / RV parks there’s, generally, an area set aside for semi-permanent places for longer-stay RVers.

In Wyoming, they are seasonal park workers, oil and gas field workers, hard-core hunters and fishers.

There’s been talk about low cost housing types for Millennials paying off student debt, seniors seeking nursing home alternatives and marginalized populations like homeless vets.

Forms of cooperative and collaborative approaches float to the surface. Tiny houses are low cost to construct and lots of them can be crammed onto a piece of ground. As such, there are cities that are building tiny houses for the homeless population.

A few years ago, I helped organize a Regional Cohousing Conference in Boulder. There were around 90 people in attendance from the US, Canada and Australia with various interests in this collaborative housing form.

This is tiny house that is 21' by 8.5' in size with a fairly tall ceiling.

This is tiny house that is 21′ by 8.5′ in size with a fairly tall ceiling.

In a past life, I used to be a city planner in Wyoming and a member the Boulder Planning Board in Colorado, as well as the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley in Longmont. I studied ecological biology and environmental politics as an undergrad and grad student. How to live a balanced life in both the human and natural environments has always been an interest of mine.

The cohousing idea is a little bit about the buildings, but it’s more about setting up an old fashioned sense of community in which residents participate in the design, character and culture of their neighborhoods. With an itinerant population like homeless people, creating a sense of community would be a challenge.

The cohousing idea originated in Scandanavia, which is a bit more communal and socialistic than in the US. Here, cohousing tries to adapt communal tenets into the “rugged individualism” of America.

The pitfalls of that evolution was the main topic of the Regional Cohousing Conference which was entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” I’ve written a post or two about those issues.

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This is a 500 sq ft tiny house that has a 1-car garage and a balcony.

Over the past few years, interest in “tiny houses” has been growing. That is, people choosing to live in homes that are from 200 to 600 sq ft in size.

They are generally built on a “flat bed” and can be wheeled around from place to place, but also can be built on a foundation, but that kicks in an entirely different set of building requirements. Tiny houses on skids or wheels fall into the land use category of mobile homes.

They are far different than your standard mobile home. Regular mobile homes can be the size of stick built houses that incorporate some space saving design features. If you google “tiny house” lots of websites and images pop up.

How about this idea – a cohousing community  that consists of tiny houses?

It makes sense to me.

The biggest hurdle for traditional cohousing, as well as regular housing, for that matter, is money.

Cohousing homes are houses with no lot lines with the development and individual houses

Cohousing homes are houses with no lot lines with the development and individual houses “designed” with input by the resident / community members. This home in Silver Sage Village recently sold for $750,000.

Money for land, money for the development. Because cost is such a huge factor, homes are constructed that maximize profit. This generally means expensive houses crammed onto a tiny space. How about the opposite – inexpensive houses on tiny spaces, that results in more open spaces?

Tiny houses cost anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 and can be parked in friends’ back yards. They are often built with sweat equity. There’s a cable tv show about downsizing baby boomers, young couples and individuals making the move to drop out of the “bigger is better” society. Some tiny homeowners want to be more mobile, others are sedentary.

With tiny houses, a cohousing organizer wouldn’t need near as much space as a typical coho development. It would depend on the rules, but a tiny house development would likely be more transient.

Utilities could be “hook ups” like in an RV park. Decisions would have to be made, based on political jurisdiction about individual septic or a septic field or central wastewater collection; individual water cisterns or central water.

I would think there would be some amenities like streets, sidewalks, open space, in addition to the common house.

This is the interior of a tiny house that through innovative design maximizes the space.

This is the interior of a tiny house that through innovative design maximizes the space.

At the typical RV park, the longer-stay “residents” have access to the common showers / restrooms, laundry, the little store and breakfast available to the overnight campers.

I can envision a common house that is more permanent, though. As a monetary hedge against potentially higher turnover rates, the common house could be mixed use with community amenities like the open dining area, kitchen, laundry facilities, TV room, guest rooms, with business tenants or owners like a convenience store, coffee shop, business offices, laundromat and the like.

I happened to be at a commercial development in Highlands Ranch – a ‘burb of Denver. There was high and medium density housing on the back side and mixed use / commercial fronting on the main drag and a strip mall with convenient services like coffee shops and kitschy stores that also included large box retail which require lots of parking.

Highlands Ranch is more known as a typical “cul de sac” nation and not as a “sustainable” community – intentional ir not.

Because tiny houses are small, neighbors would be more likely to frequent the common house, than in some traditional cohousing communities in which homes are the same as in suburbia with large living rooms, utility rooms, large kitchens. Neighbors go in their house and you don’t see them again.

Sarah Susanka says that buying a home strictly for

Sarah Susanka says that buying a home strictly for “resale” value isn’t the best choice.

There are the unfounded housing characteristics necessary for resale, as espoused by Sarah Susanka author of “Not So Big House.”

Susanka, who is also an architect, says that the sense of “home” has less to do with quantity and everything to do with quality. She points out that we feel “at home” in our houses when where we live reflects who we are in our hearts.

I heard her speak at Denver University a few years ago. The examples that stuck with me are those of the “den” and “dining room.” She asked the huge audience about who uses their den and who eats in the dining room. Not many hands went up.

I’d say that, for the most part, communities still have a bias AGAINST mobile home parks and hold the “trailer trash” stereotype. In a place like Boulder, there would be an uproar about this as a form of affordable housing. The best place to try this out would be where land is inexpensive and there is less of an elitist attitude.

At the coho conference, I was talking to a fellow filmmaker from Minnesota, who also lives in cohousing, about the idea of tiny house cohousing.

I’ll plant the seed here, but it may take me developing the idea in order for me to document it.

lincoln court old postcard

Click on the Lincoln Court image to check out and download the draft business plan.

As it turns out, I am trying to get interest in a mixed use intentional community located in Cheyenne, Wyoming called the Lincoln Court. We had our first informational meeting with participants naming “tiny houses” as one of the possible land uses, along with cohousing, apartments, coworking offices, gallery and performance space and studios.

The project is moving forward with a draft business plan available. Check it out. The project is planning for a tiny house village to diversity apartments, and two affordable cohousing projects offering stick-built town houses and cottages.

Anyone interested in building a tiny house in a cohousing community?

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This article was originally published in December 2014, but updated, in part due to a wordpress glitch that obliterated the story.

Lincoln Court Mixed Use Community housing $200K to $300K

lincoln court old postcard

Click on the post card image to download the draft business plan narrative.

The LINCOLN COURT mixed use development is an ambitious one but meets a variety of community needs. Plans are to develop on the 15 acre Back 40 Subdivision on the West End of Cheyenne, Wyoming consistent with the approved Missile Driver Corridor Plan.

The project is organized by Boulder Community Media dba ECOS. Download a copy of the draft business plan narrative.

The property is adjacent to the former Hitching Post Inn site. The project name is homage to the Lincoln Court, a motor lodge that preceded the Hitching post, which fronted on the Historic Lincoln Highway (US 30).

The Lincoln Court project targets the affordable housing need with purchase price-points between $200,000 to $300,000. The vast majority of those needing housing will be those households who earn between 0 and 80% of the county’s Median Family Income. The project will work with Habitat for Humanity and the Wyoming Community Development Authority (WCDA) programs for first-time home buyers.

Based on a 2017 housing needs survey completed by the WCDA, Laramie county has 9,520 substandard housing units and based on incremental growth, an additional 4,074 dwelling units will be needed by 2020. Out of this need

WCM envisions a project positioned to target those wishing to incorporate more creativity in their business and day-to-day lives seeking to build equity in them selves or improving their housing situations. From a larger community perspective, the project supports and implements Cheyenne and Laramie County community development goals by enhancing the social and cultural experience for current and future residents through a mixed-use creative intentional community and possibly improving blighted property – the LINCOLN COURT alter-ego Hitching Post Inn site. The project also nurtures economic development by providing housing for primary jobs and also space for local low-impact businesses to expand and entrepreneurs to flourish.

Based on a 2014 economic development report by Cheyenne LEADS and a 2017 report by the Wyoming Community Development Authority there is a big need for housing, particularly affordable housing in Cheyenne and Laramie County.

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The WCDA offers down payment assistance programs for affordable housing and first time home buyers.

Lincoln Court offers the full range of benefits to Cheyenne with regards to affordable housing as a key economic development objective:

  • Available housing for all income groups helps a community retain jobs and retail stores, and helps business owners attract and retain quality and reliable workers.
  • The job creation and expansion impact is strongest if workers reside in the community. Employees are able to live near employment centers and thus are better able to report to work on time and have time to improve their job skills or get an education.
  • Improves ability of communities and businesses to attract and retain workers.
  • For a community, housing ties people together. It fosters a sense of place and local identity. It plays an important role in a economic sustainability and development.
  • New construction and management of a property creates new employment and generates multiple ripple effects that strengthen the local economy.
  • Workforce housing creates a more stable environment for children and helps them perform better in school.
  • Enables lower-wage earners to get into a home and begin building equity. A house payment is generally less expensive than rent, which increases disposable income.
  • Helps improve distressed areas and strengthen community and neighborhood pride.
  • Increases property values and property tax revenue to communities.
  • Creates family stability since wage earners work nearby and not commuter-distance away.
  • Housing plays a key role in individual welfare and often represents the single-largest family expense/investment.

The project meets this housing need through a mixed-use development consisting of owner occupied and rental, universally-accessible senior and intergenerational cohousing dwelling units – detached and duplexes, civic and community spaces and appropriate retail that would support the community such as a coffee shop, offices, live-work options. A site map is attached.

The LINCOLN COURT also is interested in innovative continuous care, including intergenerational “green houses” as championed by Bill Thomas for caregivers who could live “on site” in the cohousing community with their disabled family members who need more intensive and specialized health care nearby.

The target market is wide open and consists of intergenerational individuals and families, as well as seniors over 50 years of age, who may be local or from out of town “empty nesters” and wanting to downsize, “vigorous retired” people wanting to stay active and age in a community setting. In support of this, the project will investigate compatible services such as personal care, urgent care.

The project is a public – private partnership with strong private sector partners and the affordable housing component involving participation by local, state and federal government agencies. The project is economically viable with a balance among strong equity from the public and private non-profit sectors, debt financing and sales/lease.

South Africa’s Memel Global community: A challenging place to walk your talk

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself – Leo Tolstoy

gandhi south africa mug

leo tolstoy mug

Be the change you wish to see in the world – Mohandas Gandhi

mandela old mug

I followed Gandhi’s strategy for as long as I could. There came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone … We chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. – Nelson Mandela

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When I cleared customs in Chicago, the Homeland Security guy was more interested in how my visit to South Africa went than the packaged beef Biltong – potential contraband – I had in my bag.

biltong

Biltong is sliced spiced meat, similar to jerky. Click on the image and check out my pilot episode about my South Africa impressions.

“Did you know Gandhi got his start in South Africa?” he asked as he scanned my passport. This was the line for travelers with no checked luggage so we weren’t holding up people. “If I did, I’ve forgotten,” I answered. “I’ll do some research after I return home.”

My research resulted in a “pilot” travelogue of my recent trip to South Africa. You can check it out here.

When I was in South Africa, the latest news was about the unearthing of a new hominid’s remains – Homo naledi – in a South African cave. South Africa is one of the first places on earth occupied by humans.

That was 300,000 years ago.

zulu british fight

The British defeated the Dutch who trekked north, but encountered local resistance to the Zulu tribe who were eventually surrendered.

Fast-forward from prehistoric times through 17th and 18th century British and Dutch colonization and the 1994 fall of apartheid, South Africa is racially integrated, but social and economic equities are slow to improve living conditions for all.

I’m investigating a third story for the “Aging Gratefully” documentary series about the connection among cultural traditions, aging and the role of a community in native and non-native cultures.

Little did I know that Mohandas Gandhi might have been South Africa’s most controversial immigrant.

Gandhi’s work later inspired Nelson Mandela.

Come to find out, Gandhi formed a couple intentional communities in his efforts to improve life for Indian immigrants in the early 20th century.

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The Phoenix community near Durban was purchased by Gandhi.

As a young lawyer, he purchased the Phoenix community near the town of Durban on the Indian Ocean. The community was influenced by the Catholic Trappist order and it’s simplistic monastic lifestyle.

Later, he partnered with a Johannesburg farm owner and formed the Tolstoy community named after the Russian author who was also his friend and colleague.

Jews, Muslims, Christians and Hindus lived and worked together in Tolstoy to eliminate discriminatory practices against other minority immigrant groups.

That brings me to my story about the possibilities of melding traditional community customs and rituals around multi-generational care for elders into contemporary indigenous society.

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Memel Organics is a permaculture CSA and gathering place for Memel Global.

To check things out, my travels took me to an intentional community development effort in South Africa called Memel Global, which is also the site of a organic community permaculture garden.

Not knowing what to expect, I tagged along with my neighbor and Memel Global project architect Bryan Bowen of Caddis Architects and his colleagues, Jamison and Molly.

They are working with Steven Ablondi and his wife Cindy Burns as they develop their project in the town of Memel and the township of Zamani in the Free State Province of South Africa. Steven and I are friends and colleagues on the National Cohousing Association board.

South African communities generally consist of towns like Memel, which under apartheid were inhabited by the white minority.

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Memel Global constructed some “rammed earth” houses in Zamani.

Adjacent townships like Zamani were the homes to the black majority who were were relocated there, in many cases, arbitrarily dividing traditional tribes and breaking up families.

Township homes have been government provided since the 1950s. That practice continues today.

Memel Global first focused on the SheWins non-governmental organization that empowers women and girls to transform their communities and meet their social needs.

marley soccer

Marley Hauser works with the SheWins soccer program.

Marley Hauser, a volunteer from Vermont,  originally arrived to be a soccer coach. In the “other duties as assigned” category, she’s helping develop a sanitary napkin manufacturing process for SheWins. The plan is to fill a community need and at the same time employ some people. The unemployment rate is at least 50 percent.

Memel Global is involved in a wide-ranging list of projects from housing for families and the elderly to while supporting health to primary education to sports programs to the arts.

shakes track

Shakes Mafanela works with the SheWins track team

Isaac “Shakes” Mafanela from the township of Soweto adjacent Johannesburg works with the SheWins sports program. His after school efforts include soccer and track teams.

Shakes was also my guide for a couple days. I was interested in township life and he showed me around Zamani and Soweto.

Memel Global has a wide-ranging mission. I’ve initially narrowed the scope of one documentary project down to community building and cohousing that taps into tribal culture and family traditions.

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Pieter Lombaard is a fellow filmmaker documenting Memel Global with Mark and Bright.

Over time, I hope to collaborate with a fellow filmmaker I met in Memel, Pieter Lombaard. He has a production company in Pretoria. So far, our story hasn’t become crystal clear.

He has been documenting Memel Global for the past couple years. Currently, he also is working to get artists to come to Memel, set up residencies and teach skills to local aspiring artists – painters, musicians, dancers.

I couldn’t have picked a more complex place than South Africa, but there’s a huge need for affordable housing.

The housing patterns made 50 years ago exist today. After apartheid, the government constructed township housing with the good intention of improving living conditions.

Even though separations based on race are technically no more, the reality is, South African society is separate but equal based on social and economic class.

Township residents are trapped with no other housing options since they can’t develop any equity.

Like Native Americans on reservations, township members don’t own their land but rather it is held “in trust” by the government.

In the United States, it is possible for tribes and tribal members to take their land out of trust status, which is counter-productive because they give up their sovereignty rights to the surrounding state and federal governments.

In South Africa, there are isolated pilot programs like one in Capetown that re-appropriates land to the occupier. Memel Global is working with the Memel town government to build housing on some of the uninhabited urban plots.

In my way of thinking, the path of least resistance would be to create a pilot project. A group of culturally related families would organize themselves into a community and jointly purchase the site. An outside funder – likely donors – could then finance and help the community construct the homes and common spaces. There could be a variety of ways. and combinations to deed land to the occupiers; swap property from government ownership elsewhere to the Memel site.

Why culturally related?

Having worked extensively with Native American tribes – particularly the Northern Arapaho – I am aware of the importance of ritual and clanship and how those define contemporary communities and physical territory. At one level, the Northern Arapaho Tribe governs for the common good, but at a deeper level, there are clan and spiritual overlays that cause conflicts and not apparent to the outside observer.

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This Zamani resident would like to upgrade her housing, but can’t because the government owns the land.

I wanted to find out if that was also true in this particular part of South Africa. Shakes introduced me to a family in Zamani. The matriarch of the house explained that she would like to improve her housing conditions and expand her living area, but was not able to do so because the land and her home were provided by the government.

When asked whether she would move into a new community. She said she had other relatives who would move to Zamani and live in a community but only if members consisted of her family members. There could be a larger community of many clan-based subcommunities. This was the traditional social pattern before tribes and families were dispersed during apartheid.

The traditional way of living for South African tribal members is not only tribal based, but also family based. This is evident in the township housing design. The plot of land is fairly large. On it is a main building that has a living area and a master bedroom and bath and in some cases a kitchen.

In the back is generally a detached accessory dwelling unit that has three rooms. The uses vary from bedrooms, to a kitchen, to office space depending on family needs at any particular moment. There is detached water source and toilet. As for this Zamani family, there is an open space behind the house where the family performs rituals.

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In Soweto, one of the accessory dwelling rooms by the one I stayed as a guest was converted into a traditional medicine doctor’s office.

I stayed the night in Soweto with a friend of Shakes. That house was a similar layout. One detached bedroom was occupied by a family member, the second was an office space for the woman of the house to practice her traditional medicine and the third was an Air B&B-type room where I stayed.

Deteriorating housing and an inability to keep up with demand remain unintended legacies of apartheid more than 20 years after former President Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress came to power after the nation’s first multiracial vote.

Since that time approximately 4 million homes have been built by the national government. That may seem like a lot, but construction has not been able to keep pace with demand from an ever-growing population in both the rural and urban areas.

Unauthorized settlements are spring up near towns and townships, including the informal community of Foster near Memel and Zamani by settlers unwilling to wait for the government to get around to providing promised housing.

In 1994, the housing backlog was nearly 1.5 million. The need has swelled to well over 2 million as the population has grown by over 13-million people.
The middle class also victims of the housing crunch.

There are 15% of South Africa’s 15 million households earn enough to secure a private mortgage, but difficult to secure because the land can’t be collateralized.

About 60% earn less than R3500 or $270 per month and qualify for government housing. But because of the construction waiting list, those homes won’t be constructed anytime soon.

The middle class makes up 25% and includes law enforcement officers, health care providers, educators and the military. They fall between the cracks because they earn too little to qualify for bank financing and make too much to qualify for government housing. This group would be a good market for the intentional community pilot project.

How might cohousing help South Africa meet its housing gap?

Boulder Senior Cohousing Communities

Lindy Cook and Alan O’Hashi pull weeds from the garden of the community with other residents at Silver Sage Village. The active adult cohousing community for those 55 or older is setup like a usual condo community with every person having their own place, but the sense of community is what is unique. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

The American cohousing template generally includes one or more people who are burning souls and strong advocates. They recruit other members who want to develop a place to live with others, own their private homes, and at the same time agree to maintain jointly owned spaces such as the common house and courtyard.

Cohousing community members are usually unrelated and may or may not share common values or rituals. That’s typical in American society that emphasizes pulling oneself up by their bootstraps and keeping to one’s self.

Cohousing, in a sense, pounds rugged individualism square pegs into community-based round holes.

Cohousing created around South African cultural norms may be a way to bring together tribes and families, which traditionally are more community oriented – a natural fit.

In the bigger picture, in a place like South Africa where social integration is a relatively new way of life, is cohousing a way to bring racially and culturally diverse multigenerational communities together?

Potentially, yes.

Using cultural brokerage, it’s possible to create a variety of black sub-communities: some traditionally family-based, some based on members from different traditions who practice their rituals elsewhere.

For whites and blacks to live together in a consensus community will take a special group of people willing to leave their cultural and social baggage behind.

Cohousing in America tends to be occupied by a white, liberal, educated, upper income demographic and encouraging diverse communities is a huge challenge.

Living in any intentional community is hard work, let alone living in one with neighbors way different.

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My first top in Zamani was the shebeen with Mark and Bright.

It’s not like being an accidental tourist for a week, or living in the college dorm for a semester. It’s day in, day out, month in month out.

It’s a lifestyle commitment.

Nonetheless, one thing all have in common is a need for interpersonal relationships at many levels including the care and respect friends and family particularly as we all get older.

The Memel Global communities approach is a step in the right direction and rekindling some of the South African intentional community flames.

Ghandi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Supporting projects like the very ambitious Memel Global community is a great way to walk your talk.

The ‘Aging Gratefully’ in cohousing film series now streaming – rent or buy

alan mri machine

Book a personal appearance by “Aging Gratefully: The Power of Good Health and Good Neighbors” filmmaker Alan O’Hashi who will screen the film and facilitate a discussion. $$$ is deductible and negotiable!

The “Aging Gratefully in Cohousing” documentary series is now streaming. There are currently three films related to growing old in an intentional community.

You can also book a screening for your community or general audience by obtaining a screening license for a nominal donation.

To purchase or rent, click on the Video On Demand (VOD) links below:

“Aging Gratefully: The Power of Good Health and Good Neighbors” (Run Time: 50min – 2017) Filmmaker and Silver Sage Village senior cohousing resident Alan O’Hashi is mostly recovered from his death bed illness in 2013.

DSCN2046 As a result of that experience he’s become much more aware of his health. One of his neighbors circulated information about a research study at the University of Colorado about the effects of exercise on brain health.

Curious, he was selected to be a research subject. To measure success, one of the criteria is emotional health and strength of relationship building.

Does living in a cohousing community be an added benefit to physical exercise? He interviewed six residents of newly-formed Germantown Commons to find out their motivations to living in cohousing and whether living intentionally with neighbors was a positive experience and what physical activities happen in a group setting.

Germantown Commons featured residents:

  • Essie Sappenfield (retired)
  • Doug Luckes (still working)
  • Suzanne Glasgow (still working)
  • Sarah Carroll (single mom)
  • Chris Corby (still working)
  • Ginger Lange (retired)
  • Vicki Metzgar (retired)

Also Appearing:

  • Bryan Bowen, AIA (Caddis Architects)
  • Angela Bryan PhD ( Principal Investigator CU FORCE study)
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Book a personal appearance by “Aging Gratefully: The Power of Culture and Traditions” filmmaker Alan O’Hashi who will screen the film and facilitate a discussion about his experiences. $$$ is deductible and negotiable.

“Aging Gratefully: The Power of Culture and Traditions” (Run Time: 30 min – 2017) My latest trek took me to South Africa where I’m investigating a third documentary in the Aging Gratefully series.

There’s an intentional community being formed in the Town of Memel and the Township of Zamani in the South African Free State Province by a friend and colleague, Steven Ablondi and his wife Cindy Burns. Steve and I serve on the National Cohousing Association board of directors.

I tagged along with the Memel Global Community architect and my across the street neighbor Bryan Bowen and a couple of his crew, Jamison and Molly. Bryan lives in the Wild Sage Cohousing community in Boulder.

I embedded myself with a local buy named Shakes in the Black African community and even though it was only for a couple days, I gained quite a bit of insight into the cultural dynamics, which are not unlike those I encounter among my Northern Arapaho tribal member friends.

As this story develops, how Native American tribes could incorporate cohousing concepts into its growing housing demand will also be investigated. There are generations-long traditional tribal cultures that have a norm about multi-generational care for elders. Does it it makes any sense to form intentional communities around these customs?

This is a 30 minutes pilot of my visit shot mainly on an iPhone 6s and I’m not sure if anything will come of this story. What do you think?

Memel Global Community featured denizens:

  • Steven Ablondi (cofounder)
  • Bryan Bowen (Caddis Architects)
  • Shakes Mafanela (SheWins sports coordinator)
  • Marley Hauser (SheWins volunteer)
  • Pieter Lombaard (Binary Film Works)
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Book a personal appearance by “Aging Gratefully: The Power of Community” filmmaker Alan O’Hashi who will screen the film and facilitate a discussion about his experiences. $$$ is deductible and negotiable!

“Aging Gratefully: The Power of Community” (Run Time: 51min – 2015) In the first of the series, what if 25 senior citizens decided to grow old together in a cohousing community? Learn about their illness, angst, and fun times while owning and maintaining 16 condos, a common house and community gardens.

Cohousing is a collaborative living arrangement. Residents own their own homes, live private lives but share in the ownership and upkeep of common spaces such the garden and common house.

It’s a challenging way to live, but living together more intentionally is a hedge against being alone and isolated through the twilight years of life.

Filmmaker and Silver Sage Village resident Alan O’Hashi was on his death bed in December 2013. Following a 6 week hospital and rehab stay and a month of home confinement, he joined a yoga community to regain his strength, but learned more about himself than just getting healthier.

Through his reflections, he recounts his continuing recovery and weaves those experiences with the perspectives of neighbors with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and those who find themselves in supportive neighborly care giving roles.

Cohousing pioneers Katie McCamant and Chuck Durrett and gerontologist Anne Glass phD offer their perspectives about senior cohousing living.

jim brownie bbqerSilver Sage Village featured residents:

  • Lindy Cook (nurse)
  • John Huyler (facilitator)
  • Henry and Jean Kroll (retired from San Francisco)
  • Dan Knifong (retired professor)
  • Jim Leach (Silver Sage Village developer)
  • Margaret Porter (retired federal government)

Also Appearing:

  • Anne Glass phD (University of North Carolina Wilmington Gerontology Program Coordinator)
  • Chuck Durrett AIA (McCamant and Durrett Architects)
  • Katie McCamant (The Cohousing Company)
  • Larissa Ortiz (teacher The Little Yoga Studio)

The Denver Post published a story prior to “Aging Gratefully” production beginning and KGNU radio did a story about it post production

If you have questions about purchase, rental or booking a screening, email Boulder Community Media

‘Aging Gratefully: The Power of Good Health and Good Neighbors’ test screens April 25th

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Filmmaker Alan O’Hashi had to take a “before” and “after” MRI as a participant in the FORCE Study. Get free tickets for the movie test screening by clicking on the photo.

“Aging Gratefully: The Power of Good Health and Good Neighbors” has a first cut test screening at the Dairy Arts Center – Boedecker Theater. Doors 630pm – cash bar and snacks in the Polk Cafe – movie at 7pm. Tickets are free, but sign up so we can keep track of seats.

Check out the facebook event page. Tickets are free, but sign up on eventbrite so we can keep track of people since the Boedecker has limited seating

Filmmaker and Silver Sage Village senior cohousing resident Alan O’Hashi is mostly recovered from his 2013 death bed illness. As a result of that experience he’s become much more aware of his health, almost to the point of hypochondria.

One of his neighbors circulated information about a research study at the University of Colorado about the effects of exercise on brain health.

Curious, he applied and was selected to be a research subject. To measure success, the criteria emotional health and strength of relationship building.

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Residents of the Germantown Commons cohousing community in Nashville, TN enjoy a neighborly get together.

Is living in an intentional community, such as cohousing, an added benefit to physical exercise? He interviewed CU researcher Angel Bryan about her research to gain an empirical perspective and six residents of newly-formed Germantown Commons to find out their anecdotal motivations to living in cohousing and whether living intentionally with neighbors was a positive experience and what physical activities happen in a group setting.

Germantown Commons Residents:
– Essie Sappenfield (retired)
– Doug Luckes (still working)
– Suzanne Glasgow (still working)
– Sarah Carroll (single mom)
– Chris Corby (still working)
– Ginger Lange (retired)
– Vicki Metzgar (retired)

Also Appearing:
– Bryan Bowen, AIA (Caddis Architects)
– Angela Bryan PhD,( Principal Investigator CU FORCE study)

To Have and to Have Not

Ernest Hemingway wrote a novel called “To Have and to Have Not” Not being much of a reader, I saw the movie with Humphrey Bogart. I’m not exactly sure how that story fits into this post, but it may have something to do with relative misery and happiness of people with lots and material possessions and those with not so much and their interactions.

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Cohousing community members share in the upkeep of the common spaces.

In a community context, it’s about values and how people chose to live together. That’s relevant since I live in a cohousing community that consists of a couple dozen neighbors in the condo homeowners association. Each household owns their home has private lives, but share in ownership of common spaces and a common house which are jointly operated and maintained in a community life. The community had a retreat recently and one of the topics that bubbled to the surface was one of perceived conflicts among families around the value of money.

As a follow up to that, the community is organizing a workshop around the touchy subject of money matters and we were each asked to fill out a “financial autobiography”.

Set up a three camera switched shoot at a big awards banquet in Cheyenne. My roots are still in Wyoming. I also went to Laramie to pay my respects to a friend who recently died.

I’ll be working out of town that weekend, but thought I’d fill it out, anyway. Being a cohousing wonk, I think this is the type of personal information potential cohousing community members should share among themselves as a part of their initial development planning. I think that learning about people on a deeper personal level right off the bat will weed out those who don’t belong in a particular community or cohousing, generally. It’s not for everybody – although I’d say most people intellectually understand the benefits of community living.

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Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961. Baseball cards were among the first things I bought with my own money. This is from a cereal box. I went to the store with my mom. She shopped. I was in the cereal aisle looking for the box with the most Yankees.

What was your-first memory of money? When I started to get allowance, 15cents per week starting when I was seven. I got a raise to a quarter a couple years later. Back in the 1960s, there really wasn’t much I had any interest in buying except baseball cards starting in 1961, then Beatles cards in 1964. There were two drug stores nearby – Save More and Thrifty where my dad would take my sister and me, generally on Saturday to see what there was to get. I didn’t buy much candy or gum, since my grandparents owned a restaurant and we, pretty much, had free run of the candy counter.

What was your happiest moment with money? When I won over $1000 in a football pool at the Stockgrower’s Bar in Lander, Wyoming. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was in the 1990s. The pool was set up so the pot was progressive. Throughout the season, there was a winner every week or two. The last pot accumulated over several weeks. I don’t recall more details nor my numbers, but I had Kansas City and the Minnesota Vikings. Chiefs defensive back Deron Cherry intercepted a pass that stopped a Vikings drive at the end of the game which gave me the pot.

Your unhappiest? When I was laid off a job in 2004 and had to use my grad student loan money to augment my unemployment insurance benefit. I’m still paying that off, luckily the interest rate is 2percent. When I got sick at the end of 2013, my insurance was ready to lapse and I had to sign up for the first round of Obamacare. I ended up with two deductibles – don’t get sick in December – and re-upped with a higher deductible plan to keep my premiums lower. It took almost two years to pay off my out of pocket costs.

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One of the dads organized field trips for the neighborhood kids. This was from a tour of a local dairy. We all got Popsicles.

How did you feel as a child, teenager, young adult – Did you feel poor, comfortable, or rich? I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My dad was the manager of the Coca Cola Bottling Company there. My mom stayed at home. That was, pretty much, the case with all the families in the Cole Addition, which was a “suburb” that popped up during the Cold War. There was huge nuclear proliferation and Cheyenne was one of the “ground zero” locations with the highest concentration of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the country. We weren’t the wealthiest family in the neighborhood. There were a few “merchant class” families who ran family businesses, but most everyone worked for wages. In a sense, it was a mass society. Every kid had a bike, for instance, but some had Schwinns, others Hawthorne which was the Wards brand. Mine was a refurbished one that was rebuilt by one of the guys who worked for my dad. To this day, I prefer self-customized used over new. My dad was an “early adopter” we had the first TV back in 1957 or 58; the first automatic dishwashers, the first seat belts (they were after-market).

alan grandpa ohashi

All my direct family members lived in the same town and were close knit.

Were you anxious about money? Growing up, I was never anxious about money. I always had a nickle in my pocket and knew I had a place to come home. Being an entrepreneur the past 15 years-or-so, I’ve learned to wake up unemployed everyday and get with the program. So far, I haven’t grown tired of it since my work is a lot of fun and different everyday. There are a few of us who live in the community who still work and the place, otherwise, operates on a “retiree” schedule.

What did your parents do to earn money? I answered that above. We were always comfortable. I ended up working for wages for most of my jobs as an adult and didn’t get the entrepreneurial bug until I was old enough to know better.

Who handled the money In your family, and how? I’m pretty sure my dad handled most of the finances. When my sister and I left the house, my mother began working again and turned her water color painting hobby into a business. She handled much of her own book work for that. As a kid, I managed my own bank account, although I often needed a ride to the savings and loan to make deposits.

Was money discussed in your family? Money wasn’t discussed when I was a kid. It was talked about when I applied for college to get loans and scholarships. Money wasn’t really discussed until we decided to put all the family assets into trust.

pat nichols birthday

All kids invited one another to birthday parties. There was no exclusion.

How did your family discuss and express generosity? Generosity was about helping others out. My parents gave to the church, as did my sister and I – which we had to take out of our allowance. Most of the kids in the neighborhood must have received similar “be independent” messages. There wasn’t a lot of collaboration or group projects. It was all about the relationship-building, more so than doing things for each other, other than at random. In Cheyenne, all the new subdivisions had swimming pools. That was the major gathering place for kids during the summer. Parents all knew each other because of the kids. Most everything was on a neighborhood basis back then – neighborhood schools, the swimming pool, neighborhood 4-H clubs, neighborhood Cub Scout dens and packs. There was a lot of reciprocity – every kid invited the other kids to their birthday parties, for example. Generosity was expressed all the time. Intentionality was part of the culture.

Did your parents trust you to go to the store to buy something? Me going to the store was not part of the division of labor. When I was in high school and drove, I may have gone to the store from time to time, but nothing memorable. It wasn’t a rite of passage.

Did you ever steal from your parents, other family members, or stores as a child? When I was in high school, I tried to steal a paperback book for an English class from the local grocery store and was caught. I did it to see if I could get away with it, since I didn’t want to fork out for “Love Story.” The worst part was having to tell my father. He had to call the store and talk to the manager – Verlin – about it. He was a friend of my dad’s employee who built my first bike. I was cut some slack and I don’t think my dad ever told my mother about it.

How much money did your family have compared to your childhood friends? As I mentioned before the neighborhood was a mass society. The social class thing wasn’t evident. It may have been among the adults, but that wasn’t a friendship factor. Although there were some families who had more social mobility and had friends from other parts of town, all my friends were in the neighborhood and church.

How did your parents respond when you asked for something? I wasn’t much of an “asker.” I was always of simple means and didn’t want much. I began to work at a very early age so I could even further be a little more independent.

Did you have to start working or did you want to start working? I didn’t think one way or the other about working. When I was offered the Hitching Post job I got a bug for it. During the summer I worked sometimes 60 hours per week at $1.35/hour and time-and-a-half over 40. For a 12 year old kid, I was socking away a lot of money. My only expense was $.75 greens fee at the public golf course on Mondays. I didn’t work during the school year because I was in sports. It was good to have my own money and not have to lean on my parents.

hitchingpost

The Hitching Post was one of the CFD hot spots. It was my best job.

At what age did you start working ? I worked at my grandparent’s business, the Highway Cafe when I was probably 10 or 11. I washed dishes and paid under the table since the legal working age was 12 at that time. I mostly worked when my dad went there to cook after he got off his job a few times a week. My first real job was when I was 12 and my neighbor on the corner, Mr. Contos, got me a job as a busboy at the Hitching Post Inn. I imagine that came about from some conversation my dad had with him. That service-sector job gave me an early exposure to jerks, picky people, control freaks, and bad tippers at a young age. My favorite shift was working from 10pm to 6am during Cheyenne Frontier Days. My job was to run booze from the bar to the Coach Rooms where huge parties took place. Now that was an eye 0pening experience.

What Is the first money you recall earning and how did you earn it? Working at my grandparent’s restaurant was more like getting tipped. My first money making project was selling pop at the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade. During CFD, there were three parades at the end of July. My sister, cousin and neighbor chipped in, shopped the sales and bought up canned sodas throughout the year and stock piled it in our bomb shelter. Even though my dad worked for Coke, we sold the grocery store brand because parade goers weren’t that brand conscious and the profit margin was better. The first year, after dead-heading to resupply wasted a lot of time and after about three summers we figured out where to set up soda caches along the route. The last I checked, my cousin still has the first bag of money he made from that parade gig.

How did you begin saving money? My first account was Cheyenne Federal Savings and Loan. Relatives would give me silver dollars for birthday presents and those were put into the account. After silver money was taken out of circulation, I thought I would be able to withdraw silver dollars from the bank, but much to my rude awakening I was not able to do so. After that I like to have tangible investments.

hc alan debbie karen mary coors

I’ve lived gregariously much of my life, including in the dorms. Not only the same dorm, but the same dorm room for four years.

Did anyone help you decide on a career based on how much money you wanted to make? In high school, I didn’t talk to a guidance counselor at all. Maybe at the end of my senior year to determine if I had enough credits to graduate. I had absolutely no idea what to expect in college. I graduated high school and college at the end of the Vietnam War with degrees in political systems analysis and environmental biology. There weren’t many jobs out there counting smooth and wrinkled peas. I ended up sitting out post-war recession studying environmental politics and teaching at the University of Wyoming. I had no career counseling. If I were to do it all over, I’d go to two years at a community college so as to avoid taking the SAT and ACT.

What messages did you get from your parents about career, earning money and spending money? I didn’t get much information or advice from my parents about money matters. They were both high school grads and didn’t have much knowledge or experience, other than to say “go to college.”

What was/ls your view on money and dating? Who should pay for dates? I didn’t date much in high school. It was a non-issue for me.

When did you get your first credit card? What were your feelings about it? When I was in college I got a Diners Club card. That was before Visa and MasterCard. I worked in the student union checking out pool equipment from 9pm to 2am. I got paid to play billiards and earned money to pay a credit card each month. I lived on campus, at the student union food and didn’t have many discretionary expenses.

Will you Inherit money? How does that make you feel? All my family property is in trust, so I didn’t “inherit” it, per se. There hasn’t been reason to sell anything yet.

Will you have money to leave to your relatives? How does that make you feel? Likely, but in the back of my mind I want to be on my death bed with no money in the bank having spent or given it away while I’m still alive.

Could you ask a close relative for a business loan? For rent/grocery money? I could, but wouldn’t.

How do you feel about your present financial situation? I’m happy with it.

Do you know how much money you have right now?  Do you know how much you owe right now? Yes and I know exactly how much I owe on a credit card, car loan and student loan.

Who handles the money in your current household, and how? We handle our own money.

Is money easily discussed? There’s no reason to discuss finances.

Is money abundant or scarce? Neither abundant nor scarce.

How does your family discuss and express generosity? It’s not discussed.

In what ways are you a good manager of money? In what ways are you a poor manager of money? I’m pretty good at keeping track of my business money mostly because I have a good CPA. Personally, I don’t have many expenses to track.

Do you have a personal budget? Yes

Have you made decisions concerning retirement, insurance, drafting a will, and so on? I’ll keep working until I get tired of it. So far, I don’t know what I’d do if I had a bunch of idle time on my hands. I’m not much of a traveler just to travel. When I go someplace it has to be purposeful. The Talking Heads have this record called “Stop Making Sense.” The album jacket has a “scrapbook” of photos. One caption of a group of women doing their laundry in the river says, “Rich people travel thousands of miles to take pictures of poor people.” That’s not my thing. I have a will and a charitable remainder trust set up.

What kinds of things do you buy on your credit card? Do you ever buy groceries or necessities? I seldom buy any day to day stuff on a credit card. My card has no “miles” attached to it.

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I bought my first new car – VW Golf – since 1974 and traded in my 1993 Eurovan

Do you make big purchases like cars, appliance or other expensive things with your credit card? If I make big purchases, I buy on credit. Recently, I bought my first new car since 1974 on credit from the dealer at 2.5% which is pretty good.

Do you know what interest rate you are paying and how much you owe? Yes

Do you have any money secrets that you have never told anyone about? Let me think …

Do you talk to your friends and family about money—how much you have or don’t have, how much you make or how much they have and make? I talk about money in general terms with business colleagues.

How much money would you like to be making? What feelings does that bring up for you? I want to make accessible money while I’m sleeping. I keep putting myself into positions to do that and one of these days …

How do you feel about spending money on yourself? About the only non-essential things I get for my self have to do with my sports card collection. That’s more like a hobby business since no money changes hands.

Have you ever felt guilty about your prosperity? Yes, when I was held by police in Uganda and had to pay a bribe to a cop.

Have you ever felt guilty that you don’t have enough money? Is this a result of your mismanagement? I don’t feel guilty about having money or not. I’m not much of an extravagant person. It’s mostly a guy thing. I don’t buy new clothes, I don’t buy new shoes. If you look in my closet it looks like Batman’s closet – a rack of gray outfits.

ghost of xmas future

People should take a visit from the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come and find out what people thought about them.

How do you feel about the money situations of those who are more or less well-off than you? At one level, I feel sorry for them. I know plenty of people who are very well off and in retirement or close to retirement. They spend lots of money on themselves but don’t seem to be very happy. Many seem to have their own circle of acquaintances and I see them once or twice a year. A friend of mine who had been planning for retirement died suddenly and I’ll be at her funeral on Saturday. I’m a non-profit fundraiser and teach workshops about donor development. There’s a datum out there that as a percentage of income, more money is given to charity by low / moderate income people than by wealthy people. The stereotypical notion that rich people should be hit up for donations is false. It’s better to nurture a larger number of willing regular people than trying to convince a rich person. More well off people need to be visited by Ebenezer Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come.

How do you feel about begging? Welfare? I have been on the public feedbag and I am very forthright about that and don’t disparage anyone who has had to seek an outside hand up. As for panhandlers, I used to think me giving someone money was some sort of social contract and the recipient wouldn’t spend my money on booze or smokes. But then I got to thinking about all the frivolous and wasteful things I’d spent money on like beer or a hamburger or whatever. When i give money to a stranger, they can spend it how ever they want.

In what ways can you be generous? In what ways can you be stingy? Do you treat? Do you tip? I’m randomly generous, throw parties, pick up tabs, treat, offer up goods and services for events and activities with no reciprocity expected. I’m not stingy, but don’t prefer to be with people who don’t carry their expected part of the load, or are constant “takers.”

We’re all “haves” and “have nots.” It depends on the time and circumstances. Everyone just needs to look themselves in the mirror and know that their experiences are not the same as anyone else’s and take those differences into account on a daily basis.

How affordable cohousing can unite a divided America

nashville_cohousing_conference_logo

The National Cohousing Conference is happening in Nashville May 19-21. Sign up for my intensive workshop and the conference by clicking on the logo above.

I’m presenting a seminar at the National Cohousing Conference May 19th in Nashville. I’ve been struggling with the content.

It was initially going to be a redux of the “diverse personalities” retreat I led in Arcosanti in the fall, but after being a part of the Women’s March on January 21st, it came together for me as a workshop melding cultural competency, diversity and community activism around intentional communities and affordable housing development.

The workshop I’m presenting is a little jargony, “How Cohousing Can Bridge Socio-Economic Divides through Personal Change and Understanding the Untapped Affordable Housing Market“. It’s scheduled for Friday May 19th from 830am to 4pm and the cost is nominal $25.

VA: Protesters gather at Dulles airport over immigration action

Watch a short video about the intensive workshop about how cohousing can bridge social and cultural divides.

There’s been quite a bit of chatter among the TV talking heads, regular conservatives and liberals ranting internally on social media about the travel ban, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Neil Gorsuch, alternative/actual facts and fake/real news.

America has always been a country divided. It’s just that the canyons are more apparent now.

Are changing the way each of looks at the world and how we can better accept people different from ourselves we going to everyone together?

I’d say, people are generally uncomfortable about discussing personal issues and views around the American Dream, money, race, class, gender identity, sexual preference. But those discussions are key to forming strong and cohesive communities – intentional or not.

My hope is that my workshop attendees understand that while the bricks and mortar of cohousing are the buildings where residents live, the people who form a community are the most important aspect.

alan-shoveling

Cohousing members chip in their time and effort to keep the community operating 24-7-365.

I live in cohousing and while, at least in my experience, it’s far from perfect, the intentionality brings neighbors together to work through tough issues – even though they may, in some cases, be on the petty side, they might as well be matters of life and death.

The upshot is, if there’s a community configuration that is suited to forcing conversations among divergent opinions it’s cohousing.

We’ll discuss why American social/dultural norms restrain the cohousing movement and then provide potential solutions for this problem.

My workshops are always hands-on and include a balance of simulation games, interactive exercises, video clips, discussion. We’ll work through the following:

  • The American Dream we learn about is bigger being better, we are driven to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, make a lot of money and be on top. We’ll talk about why cultural norms create roadblocks for the advancement of caring and interactive communities beyond what is familiar.
  • Cohousing communities, by definition, bring diverse people together. But the typical cohouser is, white, educated, high income, high perceived social class. We’ll learn and practice some ways that individuals can look at their personal histories and make changes so as to become more inclusive as opposed to just believing it’s a good idea and how to outreach to diverse communities.
  • There are institutional barriers such as city councils and planning boards enforcing dated rules and regulations. We’ll learn techniques that can help cohousing advocates create and maintain high-quality conversations and relationships personally, in community, and with city and county planners.
  • American culture of rugged individualism precludes cohousing from entering the mainstream as it has in other countries. We’ll look at the untapped numbers of people who are not the typical cohousing demographic and learn ways to approach that market.

The cohousing movement can become a catalyst for positive change including development of low income and diverse cohousing communities and bridging the gap between the left and right, the haves and have nots in the U.S. today.

Remember to bring a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer for a couple of the exercises. Sign up today for the national cohousing conference. There’s a little something for everyone.