New guide available: brief on intentional communities, cohousing, and cooperative housing in Los Angeles

I’ve just published “Guide to intentional communities, cohousing, and cooperative housing in Los Angeles.”  This brief is intended to provide an overview of what is happening with these housing types in LA, what is important to know, and how to get involved.

PDF Available for download:

Guide to intentional communities, cohousing, and cooperative housing in Los Angeles

 

Carla Truax, At Home Housing

https://athomehousing.org

September 2018

 

Does community housing exist in LA?

Yes!  There are many communities across LA.  LA Eco-village is one of the only cohousing communities as well as having a cooperative as the legal structure.  Other communities are co-living houses.  See below for links to communities and definitions of terms.

 

Where can I put a tiny home?  Are there tiny house communities?

Backyard units are now easier to obtain permits to build, thanks to new California legislation.  This would be a smaller unit behind a main house.  See “ADU” definition below.  There are not yet any tiny house communities, but a current planning project with At Home is research on creating tiny house communities.  These would be zoned as multi-family or manufactured housing lots.  Also see LATCH Collective information below on everything related to tiny homes, permits, codes, parking, and zoning considerations.

 

How do I create or join in the planning of a new community?

  • Form or join a group of interested people and get to know one another. Do social activities and create lasting relationships.  This “community glue” needs to be strong in order to do the work of planning a community.
  • Create a vision, purpose, goals, and values together as a group. Learning about other examples and other communities, then deciding what is important to you, can take a significant time commitment to having frequent meetings over many months.
  • The property, legal structure, and details are secondary – they stem directly from the vision and good communication in the group. Experts such as real estate agents, lawyers, nonprofit groups, and coop groups are often called in to help with the process.
  • Books and lists of steps to guide planning groups are available, such as https://www.ic.org/wiki/starting-a-community/

Isn’t land expensive in LA?

  • Yes, and that is why many people would like to pool their resources in order to purchase property, share common spaces, and work together in order to create our own affordable place to live. There are unique opportunities to purchase odd-shaped lots, housing in need of renovation, or land with specific uses such as transit-adjacent or affordable housing.  We believe that continuing to live in LA County is possible.  See “Activated Villages” for realtors who specialize in this area, and additional resource organizations below.

 

Can we make a community on a single lot, or buy an apartment building?

  • A lot that is zoned for single family use may not be suitable for multiple separate units. Properties that are zoned for multi-family use can be more expensive, since very large buildings would be allowed, and a bid may compete with a developer.  Planning groups can work with a real estate agent to identify properties and develop a budget.  Buying an apartment building is not always feasible, since laws prevent the eviction of existing tenants.

 

How does a group of people own land together?

  • The group can form a cooperative (in which each member owns a share and participates in the operation of the group), a Home Owners Association, a corporation, a nonprofit, or other business entity that legally owns the land.

 

More about creating community goals, values, and purpose in a vision statement

  • A vision statement is an outline of the ideals, aspirations, expectations, and goals that the members are trying to achieve in forming a community. Example group exercise: everyone get several index cards and write your answers:  What values do you think we share in common?  What is one thing that you think everyone in the community needs to believe?  What are three values that are important to you?
  • Group decisions and communication process: Who are members?  How are decisions made?  How will meetings be run?  How will conflicts be handled/resolved?

Key resources

Browse these resources to become familiar with how many groups have created their planning process and structured their organization.

 

  • Visit for a tour of Los Angeles Eco-village, http://laecovillage.org/,  a main resource center for cooperative communities.  They also hold workshops and trainings in group communication.  Examples include group decision-making and governance, non-violent communication (NVC), and conflict resolution.
  • Watch the videos by Activated Villages, a real estate company that focuses on intentional communities: www.activatedvillages.com
    Helping communities find and purchase their property and live their vision.
  • Join the mailing list of the Fellowship for Intentional Community. This site also has the directory of existing and forming communities.  http://www.ic.org/

 

Communities to visit and events to attend

 

Los Angeles Eco-village, http://laecovillage.org/

Synchronicity  http://synchronicityla.com/  Join a community dinner by reservation.

Emerald Village, Vista, CA  http://theemeraldvillage.com/   Tours by reservation, and watch for public events.

Regenerative Housing Co-operative of Pomona (Regen), Pomona, CA, http://www.regen.org/
Public events such as the Annual Sustainability Seminar in the spring.

Latch Collective  http://latchcollective.com/
A network of tiny house enthusiasts supporting each other in designing and building tiny, transportable homes. We organize opportunities for sharing and receiving skills, knowledge, experience, tools and support. We also advocate for increased housing options in Los Angeles, specifically for spaces that are affordable, sustainable, well-designed and safely built.

A list of websites and notes about communities At Home members have visited:   https://www.diigo.com/user/carlacommunity/?query=%23Communities

 

“Required reading” books and articles

My Advice to Others Planning to Start an Ecovillage.  Author: Lois Arkin.  Published in Communities Magazine Issue #156.  https://www.ic.org/my-advice-to-others-planning-to-start-an-ecovillage/

This list is updated often with new articles:
https://www.diigo.com/user/carlacommunity?query=%23community

Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. By Diana Leafe Christian http://www.dianaleafechristian.org/creating_a_life_together_practical_tools_to_grow_ecovillages_and_intentional_communities.html

Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community. By Diana Leafe Christian http://www.dianaleafechristian.org/finding_community_how_to_join_an_ecovillage_or_intentional_community.html

Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities by Kathryn McCamant & Charles Durrett  http://www.cohousingco.com/products/creating-cohousing-building-sustainable-communities


Glossary of terms

Definitions of frequently used terms.  These terms are not separate categories, and in many cases they overlap or describe different aspects of communities.  

Collaborative Housing – an umbrella term that encompasses the large variation of collectively self-organized and self-managed housing forms, including co-housing, housing co-operatives, and community land trusts (CLTs), amongst others.  (https://co-lab-research.net/aboutus)

Intentional Communities – the broadest term that encompasses a wide range of groups who intend to live together as a community.  There are many ways people describe their intentional communities: cohousing groups, ecovillages, community networks, support organizations, as well as people seeking a home in community.  A planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. (http://www.ic.org/)

 

Cohousing – a community planned with private homes and common use buildings.  Often includes smaller size homes, environmentally friendly design, and pedestrian friendly layouts. Often has shared areas like yards, gardens, community kitchen, workshops, and more. (cohousing.org)

 

Co-living – Multi-bedroom houses leased by groups of people. Residents share the desire to live cooperatively, and share spaces including kitchens, living areas, garages, and yards.  Also called “co-householding.” (www.coliving.org)

 

ADU – Accessory Dwelling Unit.  Term to refer to secondary houses in backyards, granny flats, converted garages, and structures like tiny homes.  ADUs are regulated by the state and cities.

 

Ecovillages – intentional communities whose goal is to become more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. (http://gen.ecovillage.org/)

 

Co-operative “co-op” – Housing cooperatives are businesses owned and run by and for their resident members.  Members own the property together as shareholders in the co-op.  (https://www.cccd.coop/co-op-info/co-op-types/housing-co-ops)

Community Land Trust – a nonprofit organization that owns land and oversees its use for a specific purpose.  For example, the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust for affordable housing (http://www.bvclt.org)

The Sharing Economy

Here’s what I’ve been reading and listening to lately about sharing.

The Sharing Solution is a great book with the practical side of how to buy and share things together.  Its tagline is “How to save money, simplify your life, and build community.”  All of those things certainly appeal to me.  The book covers many topics such as ownership entities: unincorporated association, nonprofit, cooperative.  There’s a good chapter on effective communication, something that will be important to any group.  One tip reminded me of a workshop I participated in recently, where I had to repeat back the main points of what the other person had just said.  That really showed me how much I miss if I’m just waiting to talk, and was a good exercise to make me focus on the other person’s side.  There are also many questionnaires, fact sheets, and legal documents that are ready to use.  I recommend the book, and I was able to find it at my library.  

Yerdle is a site where you share items with people across the country, earning credits when you share an item which you can use to get other items.  It mainly uses shipping, which costs a few dollars, and is not as personal.  It’s a bit like a huge national garage sale.  I learned about Yerdle from The Good Stuff podcast, which has had several episodes on the sharing economy.  (This is the same group with Annie Leonard who created The Story of Stuff – a must-watch video.)

Buy Nothing Project is similar but local: it has the objective of neighbors sharing items they no longer need, by joining an online group (limited to your city or neighborhood), posting a picture, and seeing who needs it.  At first, it seemed like extra effort to arrange times with others to come pick up the item.  But when I gave away my first items, I understood!  I met people in my neighborhood I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I got a warm fuzzy feeling when they could use and appreciate something I didn’t need. My group is now talking about hosting local events such as free garage sales, so I view it as a big community-builder.