On a typical day, you get the kids ready and shuttle them to school. Then you rush through your workday, pick up the kids, and drive them to an after-school activity. Then you rush home and wonder what you should put on the table. Parents are harried, and kids are chauffeured from one structured adult-led activity to the next. Gone are the days when it was acceptable for children to just be home after school, to bike around the neighborhood, or to walk over to the playground to play with the neighborhood kids.
Not so in cohousing communities. Imagine, instead, that after a long day of work and school, you park your car and walk to your house past the common garden. Your child runs off to join the kids of all age groups who are playing together outside, while wafts of a simmering stew remind you that tonight is one of the weekly community dinners. You drop off your things at home and then walk down the path to your community’s common house for a homemade meal with your neighbors.
Cohousing ABQ aims to bring this vision to reality for families, couples, and singles of all ages in the Albuquerque area. In the words of Marlies Metodi, one of the founding members, the aim of Cohousing ABQ is to “bring a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable housing option to Albuquerque.”
Cohousing developments, which originated in Denmark, are intentional communities that strive for the spirit of a village in which people, young and old, can support each other in many aspects of daily life. Having grown up in one in Austria, Marlies always loved the idea of collaborative housing communities. When she and her husband, Tzvetan, shared this dream with their friends Kersti Tyson and Matt Sexton, the resounding “yes, let’s do this” helped get the idea off the ground. Both families wanted to build a cohousing community where children could enjoy freedom of movement with friends, surrounded by families, couples, and individuals who know one another and work together to care for common areas, collaborating to live in more ecologically friendly ways. As the two families started to investigate the possibilities around this vision, they determined that now was the time to move forward with this great and challenging undertaking. Cohousing ABQ was born. The founding members began the process of community formation and development by visiting other cohousing communities and speaking with cohousing development consultants, architects, and engineers.
A core idea behind cohousing is to strike a balance between common areas and private areas — thus, while the homes are privately owned by each family, the community is designed around the idea of a village. Imagine houses arranged around a shared courtyard or open area; cars left at the periphery so that inside the community, there is room for people to connect in common areas; and a common house where neighbors meet for meals and activities. Neighbors take turns preparing meals and doing clean up together on a regular basis, and families can reserve places at the table a few days in advance. Throughout the week, neighbors can join game or movie nights, yoga classes, workshops or enjoy a conversation around the fireplace.
The founding members have identified shared values relating to environmental consciousness, sustainability, and diversity and are committed to incorporating these values into the design and life of the community. Cohousing ABQ aims to get certified by Green Build New Mexico and to reserve common space for growing food together. In addition, community members can benefit from shared resources to reduce our carbon footprint. By collectively pooling resources, talents, and interests, people can share in cooking, childcare, gardening, and transportation.
Many of us have come to accept the reality that we can go months without interacting with a single neighbor. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Cohousing ABQ, at its core, is all about interconnectedness and the shared value of families living more sustainably as a community. As we have begun to experience, and social scientists confirm, our quality of life improves with daily social interactions and connections. Our aim is to work with others to bring this dream to reality.