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A Snapshot of Cohousing in Seattle

By December 29, 2015

Et cetera


Photo: Flickr/Gordon Watts

We’re deep a holiday lull so not much for me to write about! In the meantime, here’s a guest post from Daphne Stanford on cohousing.

Considering the rising cost of living in Seattle, even for young professionals, cohousing is likely becoming more attractive now than it was in the past. Urban Living typically features higher end, typically single-family, housing but for those interested in co-operative housing, here’s a look at a few of the options in Seattle.

The appeal of co-housing for many is the possibility of sharing housing costs with others. However, it’s important to note that this privilege comes with the responsibility of sharing household tasks related to cleaning and cooking duties, for example, as well as other related living tasks. Usually the way it works is residents contribute to a common buy-in or cooperative maintenance fund or pool, and there is often a statement of philosophy or living guidelines that must be agreed to before new members are able to join the community.

KUOW wrote a piece on some of the more prominent cohousing communities last year, A Peek Inside Seattle’s Remaining Communes. However, I don’t know that it’s fair to call the living situations ‘communes,’ per se; take, for example, the Jackson Place Cohousing (JPC) community. There are twenty-seven separate homes in the community; what makes the homes communal is the shared common space such as a community dining hall and a kids’ room—among other common facilities. There’s Puget Ridge Cohousing, as well, which also features separate residences on a common piece of property. It allows residents the option of sharing kitchen space, a living room, a playroom, a guest room, a shop, laundry, and outdoor patio.

Most cohousing properties, however, are a bit more ‘communal.’ For example, the “GrokHome” features a tech-style house personality based around common, creative, hack-related interests. With cohousing, co-ownership requires residents to buy shares of the corporation to entitle them to occupation rights. There’s also shared liability, meaning that if one tenant defaults on a mortgage payment, the other tenants are held responsible, as well. Also, there’s an interview or screening process, so as to ensure that all the residents see things in a similar way and, at the very least, get along! In my search for information, this Wiki-based site provided a great deal of helpful information about specific properties, as well as external links to additional, related resources. The Cohousing Association of the United States has a slideshow that does an excellent job of illustrating the community living experience, if you’re interested in more specific, visual examples of what cohousing can look like.

More often than not, cohousing communities adopt specific living philosophies and member guidelines as well—often offering residents the opportunity to voice their opinions on what their particular community lifestyle should entail. Depending on when the group location was developed, you may be able to take part in helping to decide on your particular community’s code of ethics, etc. For example, The Trails at Newcastle is a community that recently started up, so there’s likely more opportunities to get involved with the ‘ground floor’ of the group ethos, so to speak.

So, to recap, some of the characteristics of life on a cohousing property include an increased emphasis on community and shared common spaces, a philosophy or set of community guidelines that is mutually agreed-upon, and co-ownership with your fellow tenants. Best of luck in determining if one of the cohousing communities in Seattle is right for you. Or perhaps you will be inspired to start a community of your own!

Daphne Stanford grew up near the ocean, and she loves taking pictures of the mountains and rivers in Idaho, where she now lives. She believes in the power of writing, education, and radio to change the world. She hosts “The Poetry Show!” Sundays on Radio Boise. Find her on Twitter?.

I own and manage Urban Living, a boutique Seattle and Bellevue real estate brokerage. I love lofts, floating homes, new construction, and mid-century moderns, but I will help you buy or sell just about anything!

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