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Just Improved Communes?

Posted on July 31, 2008 by
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The Times Online and the Sunday Times (of London) carried an article on both the utopian and the practical aspects of community living. The article features an existing co-housing developments in the UK, Community Project of South Downs. Benefits such as shared child rearing, help in times of health crisis, and shared resources are mentioned. Some drawbacks of life in a co-housing development are also mentioned, such as additional planning required for new development. The Times writes:

Visiting the Community Project on a sunny summer’s day, it is easy to appreciate the appeal. The setting is idyllic – the buildings look out over a green valley, narrow paths wind between rambling undergrowth and abundant vegetation, while three horses in a paddock swish their tails lazily against the flies. Come teatime, the place is swarming with children conducting water-gun fights and larking about.

“It’s awesome for kids,” says Jed Novick, 49, a lecturer in journalism who moved here two years ago with his wife, Gilly Smith, 45, and their two daughters, Ellie, 12, and Loulou, 9. “They have such freedom and independence here, within safe walls.”

Such a lifestyle appeals to many people, and the article also mentions the potential for the development of more co-housing projects in the future. A training center for would be co-housing founders, Threshold Centre at Cole Street Farm. The Times writes:

Fancy the idea of living communally? You could always found your own cohousing community. Alan Heeks, an ex-businessman with an MBA from Harvard, set up the Threshold Centre at Cole Street Farm, near Gillingham, Dorset, with a group of six like-minded friends in 2004, and runs regular workshops for those interested in cohousing. The basic principles are the same, although there are differences: the eight members share everything from home-grown vegetables to the washing machine, and are required to give 5% of the value of their property to the project when they sell.

Given the balanced article, I am suprised at its name, “Cohousing is the new name for commune living”. Perhaps “commune” isn’t such a charged word in the UK as it is in the US?

Read the full article here.


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