Over the last year, I have developed a fascination with cohousing. When I heard that one of the largest cohousing communities in the US, East Lake Commons, was in my own backyard of Atlanta, I decided to check it out. But before I show you how special East Lake Commons is, first, let me quickly dispel something that you may be thinking.
Cohousing is NOT a commune
Think of it as a regular housing development (everyone has their own home), but instead of boring and isolating, think neighbors, sustainable, and community based. Cohousing communities typically look a little something like this.
Cohousing is a concept that originated in Denmark and has spread all over the world. Worldwide, there are now hundreds of cohousing communities.
The definition of cohousing
According to cohousing.org, cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods. Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.For additional information, download the Six Defining Characteristics of Cohousing.
PGAL’s visit to East Lake Commons – pictures and first impressions
I scheduled a visit with Anne through East Lake’s website. Upon arrival, I noticed an electric car charging station, sensed that the people were friendly, and felt a calm on the property.
I met Anne, who gives guests tours. She is a spitfire of a woman, and I immediately liked her. She explained all about the property. I learned that grass is only mowed in one area, a field, and the rest of the property has a local variety of grass that grows tall over the property. I noticed how many birds were chirping. Anne explained it is because no pesticides or chemicals are used. All of these things combined to create an oasis from the hustle and bustle of urban life. There were many shared spaces, spaces that were actually used, unlike spaces in so many apartments or condos.
I also noticed that the property was designed for community and that neighbors knew each other, and it was refreshing. Oddly, to me, it felt like how life in America should feel. Most of the shared spaces were dedicated to creating something (the farm, the kitchen) or for a common goal.
It is really difficult to paint a picture for you. It is the type of place you need to visit. However, I did create a top 10 list of why East Lake Commons is great:
1.) Homes were setup for solar and geothermal. Not all homes had this, but I thought it was really neat that people were able to generate their own energy.
2.) The farm. They have a 5 acre farm. It is a CSA and farmed by Joe. I met Joe, and got a tour of the farm. It blew my mind.
3.) Weekly community potlucks. Who doesn’t love potlucks?
4.) Extensive shared community spaces. There were shared spaces for kids, for working out, for eating, for playing, for sitting around, for everything.
5.) Visitability. The folks at East Lake Commons came up with this term to describe the fact that every single property is handicap accessible. I thought that was really neat.
6.) Diversity. From the beginning, East Lake Commons sought diversity in terms of race, income, religion, and other areas. I really like that they can find common purpose despite differences.
7.) Multigenerational. Several families have three generations living at East Lake Commons. Everyone is welcomed and valued as part of the community, young and old. This really touched me, because this rarely happens anymore.
8.) Affordability. The property is meant to be affordable for the working class too. I really liked that. It wasn’t just for the folks with enough money to shop at Whole Foods.
9.) Rocking chairs. Hanging out with your neighors rocking back and forth is probably one of the best things in life. The only thing that could make it better?
10.) Porches. Porches are the answer to many of life’s problems. There were lot’s of great porches for sitting and relaxing.
Have I sold you yet?
How to visit
You can request a tour at this link.
Want to know more cool facts about East Lake Commons? Here is a list of interesting facts I learned:
- It originally started as a Quaker retirement community concept, but morphed as the vision expanded.
- There are 67 units, and it is one of the largest in the nation!
- Residents get first dibs on the organic farm produce as members of the CSA. After that, food is taken to the farmers markets and also sold to restaurants.
- Decisions are made by consensus as per the Quaker way. There are a lot of committees!
- Residence must work at least 4 hours per month as a way of contributing to the overall health of the community. If you want, you can join the machete team and hack down overgrowth!
- Joe the farmer has 5 acres of land to farm. He operates as a business and rents the farm from the community for $1 per month, but community members get first dibs on the produce.
- There are 180 people in the community and nearly 50 kids.
- All laundry detergents must be perfume and dye free.
- The village green is the only area that is mowed.
- The property was previously a dairy farm.
- They recycle everything and composting is a way of life.
- It was started in 1996.
- Things are done on consensus.