Build it and people will come. That seems to be the case regarding Intentional Housing communities. (Also known as “Pocket Neighborhoods” “Homestead Hamlets” “Cohousing Communities”) Although it’s less about building and more about creating. The intentional community movement is defined by an infectious “DIY” (do-it-yourself) sensibility with plain old grassroots organizing of like-minded people at its core. While the names, home sizes and community structure differ, they share the common belief that communal outdoor spaces with shared activities and responsibilities are key to creating enriching relationships with neighbors. Another key value of intentional communities is the concept of living sustainably and lightly on the planet. Resource sharing (sharing things such as laundry facilities, tools, vegetable gardens, gathering spaces) does away with wasteful redundancy. Why let things go unused when you can share?
Intentional communities that are exclusively formed with tiny homes are still rare due to zoning issues but that’s changing. Groups are either convincing local municipalities to relax zoning for small footprint homes and/or finding “work- arounds” by, as an example, using existing RV parks to form small coalitions of tiny homes on wheels. But the piecemeal jurisdiction by jurisdiction solution is not ideal since the demand far exceeds the availability. The hope is that with the continued advocacy by the Tiny House Movement attitudes and zoning will change.
In this post we highlight seven U.S. intentional communities, three of which are composed of tiny houses. We know there are more communities out there so we’d love to hear from our readers about those that we didn’t mention . . .
In operation since 1940, Bryn Gweled Homesteads (BG) in Bucks County PA was established by 13 Quaker families on 240 acres of land. The founders felt strongly that the community be one of inclusivity. Today, like it was back in the beginning, membership is open to all religions, races and nationalities. Currently 75 families live in the community and it’s structured very much like an incorporated housing cooperative — BG owns the land and leases the property to families who own their homes. Residents are expected to participate in work parties and governance committees. The property hosts the following shared amenities: organic garden, swimming pool, tennis courts, soccer field, skating pond and numerous woodland trails.
Orlando Lakefront at College Park is a tiny home and RV community in which “tiny housers” can park and live in their “THOW” (tiny house on wheels) for any length of time. The park currently has thirteen tiny houses, two of which are on foundations. (These permanent homes were existing buildings that got around zoning laws by being repurposed.) They invite people to check out the community via their monthly open house.
The Cottage Company is not a community but a company that has developed, designed and built eight “pocket neighborhoods” throughout the Seattle, WA metro area. A pocket neighborhood is a group of small homes (1000 – 1500 sq ft) clustered around a shared outdoor space and built within an existing neighborhood. As in a typical neighborhood, residents own their own homes but what’s different is the layout — homeowners park their cars in a shared lot and walk on communal paths to their homes allowing spontaneous interactions with neighbors. It’s a game changing idea that’s opening up tremendous possibilities for higher density residential development. The major coup for the Cottage Company has been their ability to design space efficient homes that balance residents’ privacy needs with those that foster connection. Each house is designed so windows either face out into common spaces or don’t look into the neighboring home. Cottage Company homes are sustainably built and are certified under the Northwest Energy Star program.
Could you, would you, should you live with your best friends? These friends said yes! Their intentional community in rural Texas, while private, is a great example of designing a cohousing compound that meets everybody’s needs. The group (composed of four couples) purchased the land and developed it together. Instead of building one big house for all, which was their first idea, they decided for each family to live in a small house (400 sq ft) and built a community space for cooking, dining and gathering. Here again, the idea of pooling resources to avoid redundancy comes into play as a way to not only simplify life but reduce each person’s carbon footprint.
N Street Cohousing in Davis, CA without ever intending to has set the precedent on how to develop a cohousing community organically but thoughtfully within an existing neighborhood. This process for N Street, which is coined as “retrofitting cohousing”, started in 1986 when the founder married and his wife bought the house next to his. They knocked down the fence between the two houses to create a larger shared backyard. Over the years, more fences were removed as families in the surrounding block became part of the community. Today N Street is an official planned development, allowing setbacks to be more relaxed and second unit apartments to be built. Twenty-one homes make up the community, with residents owning their homes and their land. Members gather in the community house several times a week for meals, participate in community chores and pay monthly dues to help pay for keeping chickens (whose eggs are shared.)
In Simply Home Community in Portland, OR seven members live among the three tiny homes and The Big House, a 1400 sq ft home that anchors the property. The Big House serves as the living space for some of the members and the gathering space, kitchen and laundry room for all. Simply Home is a tight-knit group, that cooks nightly meals for each other and that has impromptu movie nights along with participating in the collaborative work necessary to maintain the community. Past projects include building a bike shelter and garden shed, digging trenches for utilities, planting a vegetable garden and retrofitting the Big House to be earthquake ready. All the members are active in the Tiny House Movement and are committed to spreading the word about cohousing via living tiny. They encourage people to learn more about them by booking a tour through their website.
Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage (ERUEV) is located in the historic urban neighborhood of Price Hill in Cincinnati OH. In 2004, several neighbors pooled their resources to help combat both climate and economic threats facing the neighborhood. When the recession hit, ERUEV reorganized as a non-profit to enable them to buy blighted homes, rehab them with energy-efficient features and then sell as affordable homes within the community. Currently there are 90 properties that make up ERUEV with members actively committed to the core values of living more sustainably and valuing the earth’s limited resources. To help with these goals ERUEV has developed within this urban community an organic farm with goats and chickens, a greenhouse, a CSA (community supported agriculture), a 16 acre nature preserve with educational center, a food co-op and a general store. For people interested in visiting, they offer a monthly open house tour.