Image: Healthy Rural Community Living by Malakai Schindel.
If I were to think of a moment that solidified my desire to live in a way that's more mindful, more considered and more intentional, it would be the day I moved into my current house. I remember with clarity, meeting my neighbour for the first time and her words to me. She said, "It's nice and quiet around here, everyone keeps themselves to themselves". She said this as though it were a good thing! My heart sank at the prospect. People, living side by side, with no interest in each other. No desire to reach out, to connect. How hollow. How boring. Recently, I have written about the benefits of everyday micro-interactions for social cohesion, trust and well-being. The experience of spending the best part of 2020 in lockdown, on a street with people keeping themselves to themselves, has reinforced my need to be part of a community. So when the opportunity to be part of Birmingham Intentional community Cohousing project presented itself earlier this year it felt serendipitous and I jumped at the chance.
My social need was coupled with a sense of material necessity.
This year I have moved beyond merely knowing about the Climate Crisis to waking up to the reality of it. The realisation that the shit is going to hit the fan has made me recognise that living in small scale, sustainable communities with connections to local food supplies and autonomy over one's energy production is the best thing we can do for our children's future, for each other, and to have some resilience to what's coming down the road. We also need to move away from the current Thatcherite housing paradigm that views homes as mere investments and has contributed to the current housing crisis where 40% of the population are being priced out of homeownership with little adequate alternative in place.
Of course, I don't expect that all issues around affordability, community cohesion, food security, and energy security will magically be solved by community housing projects, however, I'm so excited to be involved and be a small part of the solution. Community Cohousing is gradually building momentum and there are now 19 built cohousing communities in the UK. A further 60+ cohousing groups are developing projects and new groups are forming all the time. To my mind, Community Cohousing is about shared values. This doesn't mean everybody being the same, but rather recognising and working with differences; cooperation, community and saying yes to living together in a way that's considered, mindful and intentional. As someone who cares deeply about the planet, the emphasis on sustainability means that Intentional Community cohousing is another way my actions can align with my values. During a time of uncertainty and anxiety about many aspects of the future, it feels like a positive journey towards a better way of living. So here's to 2021 and another year closer to making Birmingham Intentional Community Co Housing a reality.
By Laura Hackett