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Hardship and Resilience in Cohousing

Cohousing ABQ may not have its buildings constructed yet, but we’ve actually been conducting ourselves as a community for some time. We get together for our annual lantern walk, for potlucks and for hikes in the foothills, and we are also the developers of the Cohousing ABQ project, governing ourselves with a non-hierarchical system called Sociocracy. We’ve grown close by working together and through play. We’ve shared much joy, but we’ve also gone through some really tough times together.

Often when we talk about Cohousing we focus on the problems that Cohousing will solve. We’ll more effortlessly live in true community, sharing resources, being there for one another, fostering deeper connections and in so doing bring more meaning and joy into our lives. And all of those benefits of Cohousing are real. But sometimes we forget to talk about the fact that Cohousing can be hard. Conflicts can arise between neighbors, problems can arise within Cohousing that present the community with difficult decisions, and being in Cohousing does not make one immune to external threats like natural disasters, economic depressions or pandemics.

Cohousing friends young and old gathering for our annual lantern walk in November.

Last year, Cohousing ABQ faced some real hardships. Back in April of 2021, we were just about ready to begin building. We had grown our membership to 25 households, and were getting ready to approach banks. And then we got updated prices from our builders and we were left in total shock. As you may know, the pandemic has dramatically affected the cost of construction. Supplies like lumber and steel, and even labor costs have increased. For us, this would mean a significant increase in our home-prices. In the months that followed this revelation, we explored every avenue for getting prices back down to what they once were. And we were not successful.

There were many sleepless nights and many tears shed. Because ultimately, the price increases led to the loss of many beloved future neighbors. We’d become really close, in part because we’d made a commitment to build this community together for as far into the future as we could see. In this world of constant change, people moving in and out of our lives, that was really something. Some members of the community have used the word “mourning” to describe the emotions they felt, both about leaving, and about having members leave. And I can say for myself that the word is certainly accurate.

Why would you share all of this, you may ask. Well, because it’s real. Hardship is a part of Cohousing too. And when the community is strong, so is resilience.

We cried together, talked it through together and fell into each other’s arms for long, loving hugs. Then we picked ourselves up. We continue to celebrate life with members new and old through lantern walks, potlucks, and hikes in the foothills. And we are back at work like never before to bring this beautiful vision to life.

As a community, Cohousing ABQ made the very difficult decision to let go of our dreams of building Passivhaus homes in order to reduce home prices. (However, we are building to New Mexico Green Built standards and investing in solar and other ways to make the project as sustainable as possible.) The architects are almost done completing the updated plans and soon our builders will be giving us the final bid. Our home prices have been set to account for possible construction cost increases and we will be signing purchase contracts this month. We began marketing in a way we never had before and are seeing the immediate, dramatic results. We’ve had three wonderful households join our LLC in just the last month and have fourteen explorer households going through the process that leads to membership now. We expect to break ground on the building site adjacent to the beautiful Rio Grande Rriver in summer 2022 and move into our new homes in summer 2023.

To say I am proud of the way our community has handled the setbacks that came with pandemic-related price increases, would be an understatement. I’ve seen such grit, determination, hard work and dedication. But I’ve also seen so much thoughtfulness, kindness, heartfelt communication, collaboration, and growth. This community is truly something special.

We hope you will join us.

- Janey

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