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Raising Kids in Cohousing Communities


| 12/26/2012 11:49:00 AM


Throughout my life, I have lived in communities where I knew only a handful of my neighbors. I didn’t ever ask to borrow a cup of sugar or flour like they did in the communities depicted in 1950s sitcoms. My mother, however, grew up in such a neighborhood, where there were 42 children living on one block. When kids played outside, all the neighbors looked out for them, not only the parents. In many ways, my husband and I have been seeking out such a community for our two young children.

My family will soon be moving to Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage (BC&E) on the midcoast of Maine. Cohousing is collaborative housing where residents actively and intentionally participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhood.

kids flying kites at the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage
Photo By Jeffrey Mabee/Courtesy Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage

BC&E is a 36-unit community on 40-plus acres that will soon break ground on the approximately 4,000-square-foot common house with a large dining room, commercial kitchen, guest bedrooms, laundry room and playroom.

The community layout—including restricted access to automobiles with parking on the periphery, clustered homes, community vegetable and flower gardens, and preserved open space—makes it a safe and dynamic place for children to call home. There are currently 11 member households with children or little ones on the way, as well as numerous senior households that are eager to have a role in these children’s lives.



Before deciding to join a cohousing community, I spoke with other people about their experiences. “Living in cohousing is amazing for children,” says Forrest Espinoza, a mother of two, ages 8 and 11, who lives in Troy Gardens, a cohousing community in Madison, Wisconsin. “My kids enjoy playing with children of all ages. They play outside so much more. Before we moved here, I had a hard time getting them to go outside because there weren’t other kids outside. The first couple years we lived here, I had trouble getting them to come inside!”



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