Wanted: Roommates with money

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It’s not your granddaddy’s Hippie commune.

In fact, a group of Brooklynites who want to buy a nice building near Prospect Park and share common areas with like-minded friendly people aren’t even hippies at all.

They’re called “co-housing enthusiasts.”

And they’re coming soon — they hope — to a neighborhood near you to create a vibrant form of social living in an otherwise indifferent city.

“We want more out of life. We want more community. We were lonely and felt too isolated,” said Alex Marshall, who started planning the first co-housing dwelling in the city with his wife last summer.

Alas, the 1970s are dead. This will not be a pot-smoking, patchouli-filled, free-loving, anything-goes compound.

“Take a commune and a condo, put them in a blender and this is what you get,” said Ben Watts, a likely resident of the building, which will probably be in Park Slope, Prospect Heights or Windsor Terrace.

Drug use and promiscuity — the hallmarks of the golden age of commune living! — will be purely coincidental. But there will be a shared mindset about how to live.

Marshall and about 20 other families say they want to solve what they perceive as the breakdown of capitalist civilization by doing more than acknowledging their building-mates with a slightly perceptible “New York nod” in the hallway.

Inside their walls, there will be communal meals, activities and relaxation. Members are expected to congregate with the group on a semi-regular basis, though there’s no stipulation to do so. It’s dorm living — without the studying.

And without the dorm: Families or individuals who want to participate in the co-housing experiment will have to make a significant financial investment. Marshall estimates that it will cost $15–$20 million for the building, or around $600,000 per unit.

The co-housing model emerged in Denmark in the 1970s. In the United States, it’s rooted in the blue state bastions like Seattle, the Bay Area and college towns.

Shelling out lots of money to live in a group setting sounded a bit strange to 1970s-era commune residents.

“One advantage [of our commune] was that we had three families sharing one mortgage,” said Alice Radosh, who lived in a Sixth Street brownstone for much of the 1970s.

Elaine Archer, one of Radosh’s housemates, continues to be a proponent of non-traditional housing arrangements.

“We didn’t focus so much on nuclear families … so I’m glad to see co-housing, because that looks like a different approach.”

As a veteran of both worlds, Radosh reflected on the benefits of each.

“With co-housing, you still pretty much run your own house — that’s the advantage,” she said. At the commune, “there wasn’t the same amount of privacy, but there were a lot more services collective­ly.”

The new commun-ists

Urbanites of the world, unite! Brooklynites hungry for a sense of a community, but wanting a privates space of their own, can plant a foot in both worlds by getting involved with the borough’s, and the city’s, first co-housing group. It sounds great, but history is dotted with failed utopian housing schemes.

1970s DenmarkFOUNDED1848 Britain
“The Co-housing Handbook: Building a place for Community in Crisis,” by Chris ScottHansonESSENTIAL BOOK“The Communist Manifesto,” by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx
Scandinavia, the Bay Area, college townsPOPULAR INCuba, Israeli kibbutzim, college towns, liberal arts school coffeehouses
No, but mix it with collectively owned common space.ABOLISH PRIVATE PROPERTY?Yes.
Hectic, impersonal modern life.SOURCE OF CONFLICTUnequal ownership of the means of production.
Updated 5:06 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

superstar from sunset park says:
This is called a "coop". There are thousands of them in New York. It makes up 70% of our ownership market. They're all over Sunset Park.
May 16, 2008, 12:07 pm
nope says:
sounds like a bunch of lonely old people
May 17, 2008, 1:01 pm
Kenn Burke from Bay Ridge says:
This sounds alot like what the mexicans, chinese, hasidic jews & any other minority group you can think of have to do just to survive in the 5 boros for quiet some time. Guess when it's well to do white folk it's called "enthusiasm".

SWM living in the real world.
May 17, 2008, 9:30 pm
Helena from Chicago says:
I don't know why you all have to be so cynical and negative about a group of people who are working on alternative housing in Brooklyn. Jealousy? Fear of something different? Hey, they don't seem to be forcing any of you into it...why not let those who want to try this do it without judgement?
May 19, 2008, 9:01 am
Shepherd Siegel from Seattle says:
Oh. I was looking for a pot-smoking, patchouli-filled, free-loving, anything-goes compound...with drug use and promiscuity. But keep trying, we'll get there!
May 23, 2008, 8:19 pm
Amala from Washington Heights says:
The tone of this article is disrespectful and doesn't allow readers to make up our own minds about the validity of these people. Still, it's good that the subject of co-housing is at least discussed.
April 7, 2009, 4:55 pm
Amala from Washington Heights says:
I wanted to ad that unlike co-ops, co-housing has shared goals such as sustainability and management through consensus. Additionally, members are not admitted only because of 'bottom-line' issues such as credit history or a preapproved loan. Rather, prospective members have to spend time exploring the co-housing community, and it is a process of mutual exchange wherein both have to decide w/not it is a good fit on many levels. This is about creating sustainable communities, not getting one's own space and giving lip-service to cooperatively managing it the way most co-ops are in NYC. In my building, some people have sued the co-op because they couldn't get the super to fix various things in their apartment. In a co-housing community, the possibility of litigation is quite low because problems are solved practically, immediately or if more complex, through a process of consensus.
April 7, 2009, 4:59 pm
Debbie Feldman from Brooklyn says:
Sounds like a great idea and I would love to be involved. But, I don't have $600,000.
July 6, 2010, 8:19 am

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