While we’re working hard on what we expect to be an avalanche of PACE projects once the new law is passed, we’ve been giving serious consideration to where and how we might want to live during this next few years of our lives. Like many others in our age group, we’re officially “empty-nesters,” and are looking to live “more lightly” on the land. We’d also like to be part of a genuine community, where we have deeper relationships with our neighbors, and can work together to bring about more rapid social change.
This has led us to a growing interest in intentional communities, ecovillages, and cohousing. The most practical and least controversial of these is cohousing, where a small neighborhood of 10-35 families share a large common facility, and live in smaller-footprint individual homes around this common space
Cohousing itself is not new; pioneered in Denmark in the 1970s, it was introduced into the U.S. by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett more than 35 years ago. There are more than 700 cohousing neighborhoods in Denmark today, many in other European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand, and close to 150 in the United States, with another hundred or so in various stages of development.
New Jersey is something of an anomaly in having no completed cohousing developments. In our view there is considerable interest and potential for development. And it is a uniquely appropriate vehicle for the kinds of “regenerative community solutions” we are seeking to introduce to NJ communities in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Creating diverse, walkable, and socially cohesive neighborhoods is worthwhile in itself, but it takes on a larger purpose in the context of a regenerative vision for local communities. Cohousing neighborhoods can serve as vehicles for innovation in designing a sustainable future, and then sharing the most successful outcomes.
The Regenerative Vision
What’s different about our approach is that we see cohousing as part of a larger solution set, inside the context of the “great transition” that our society is undergoing in the face of multiple challenges to the viability of our ecosystem.
Regenerative design is a process-oriented systems theory based approach to design. The term “regenerative” describes processes that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials, creating sustainable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature….
Whereas the highest aim of sustainable development is to satisfy fundamental human needs today without compromising the possibility of future generations to satisfy theirs, the end-goal of regenerative design is to redevelop systems with absolute effectiveness, that allows for the co-evolution of the human species along with other thriving species. (Wikipedia)
This vision can be shared with those interested in joining the cohousing neighborhoods, as part of the inspiration for these communities, and part of the economic foundation of the community. These neighborhoods can then become the seeds of change.
This is not to say that every individual living in the cohousing development needs to be actively engaged in the work of social, economic and environmental transformation; there are plenty of good and practical reasons for wanting to live in a cohousing community.
A Sharing Economy
One special aspect of cohousing is its focus on “the sharing economy,” which is emerging as one of the major complements to the traditional economic model which has led to both much of the world’s economic progress and to the planet’s increasing ecological challenges. The Sharing Economy has both local and global implications, leading to the more efficient and socially-just utilization of resources in both developed and developing economies.
In cohousing, sharing tools, tasks, and decision-making is a natural part of daily life. Expanding the sharing economy, both informally and formally — through alternative currencies and economic models — is a central part of the transition we are seeking.
Spawning a New Movement
Clearly the desire to re-create community in our lives reflects a larger yearning and demand for transformational change. We believe this vision is coalescing into one that in many ways parallels the views expressed in The Natural Step: that we need to create a more just, humane, and civilized society in order to stop destroying the planet.
“Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society—its world view, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions—rearranges itself. And the people born then cannot even imagine a world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through such a transformation.”
—Peter Drucker, author, Post-Capitalist Society
What is emerging is a global movement for change, expressed in a variety of ways, and still battling an older view that purports to stand for a status quo that never actually existed. The reality is that society is constantly changing, and we can choose to embrace and support this evolution consciously or be dragged along by it. Marching at the forefront of the movement allows us to see where we are going and some of what lies ahead — a post-scarcity economy and a flourishing planet.
Our Background and Vision
The CRCS team has the background and the relationships to support the creation of a cohousing movement in New Jersey, given our experience in ecological design, real estate development; residential and mixed-use construction; municipal planning, zoning, and permitting; community organizing, communication and group facilitation; clean energy; project finance; website and database development and sales and marketing.