Joanne has a passion for learning new skills and living a life of novelty. Her love for learning started with her studies at Idaho State University for nutrition. Once she earned her degree, she married her husband, Roy, and together they moved to Kennewick, WA. There, she discovered her love of fabrics and fashions and took a job in ladies tailoring, adding another skill to her list. After a while, she went back to school for interior design, with a focus on kitchen design. Using her expertise, she had her own kitchen remodeled from one of her own designs. After that, she picked up something new again, deciding to help Roy at his material science lab in Richland High, before retiring with him in 2008. Since then, Joanne has enjoyed going on Road Scholar trips. She’s traveled the world with her husband attending these lecture tours, combining her love for adventure and learning.
When she’s at home, Joanne likes to landscape, design flower beds, and care for her flowers. She also likes to spend time out on her patio reading and enjoying being outside in the heat. While moving to Bozeman is going to be a bit of a change, she’s ready for the new adventure. She says, “When the pandemic hit, my life wasn’t the same anymore, so it’s a good time to change.”
While she is going to miss the wineries and fresh fruit of Kennewick, Joanne is excited to move to Bozeman and meet new people. She and her husband didn’t really want to live in a retirement home, surrounded by the same type of people. They wanted to be around people who were different from them and hear about their new ideas. Joanne was a part of a young women’s club and spent a lot of time with her fellow members and their families doing potlucks and picnics, and playing volleyball together. She laments that they only know one of their neighbors currently, living in an otherwise unfriendly neighborhood. She is excited to move into a neighborhood designed to create a community of friendly and social neighbors. She’s also excited to have a new place to decorate and hopes she can help decorate some of the common spaces around the community.
The growing concern about energy and conservation makes Joanne hopeful for the future. It was encouraging when she found out the members of Bozeman Cohousing were working on clean energy options and clean living. Joanne became really energetic when started talking about the ways Bozeman Cohousing was being conscious of their energy use. The idea of sharing “tools and toys” really excited her, saying it was a waste for everyone to have their own lawnmower, for example. To share a couple in the community was better for the economy and was a part of the clean living life adventure she was eager to start. She also was happy to hear that more people are becoming concerned with establishing community instead of picking a place to live and hoping you get friendly neighborhoods. She commented that people usually think she’s moving into a hippie community or transitioning to some sort of radical lifestyle when she first starts talking about Bozeman Cohousing, but as she describes it and they begin to learn more about it, they find it interesting.
Joanne was like a kid on Christmas when talking about the idea of her new place in Bozeman, a new adventure. She talked about how she could hardly wait for their place to be finished so she could move in. In the end though, she commented “If you have to wait for something, it means more.”
Roy is passionate about his work and loves to problem-solve. Roy graduated from the University of Utah as a ceramic engineer and put his skills to use working for Battelle at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Kennewick, WA, where he lives with his wife, Joanne. During his 30th year with Battelle, he had the chance to help develop a high school class on material science. He fell in love with the course and decided to quit his job at Battelle and start teaching at Richland High. It was such a successful course that when the time came to build a new school, Southridge High, they built a lab specifically for the class. The class ended up being so popular that he started teaching other educators all over the country so they could offer the class in their own schools. Roy stated that his only regret was that he didn’t do it sooner.
Roy’s passion for the program he built is clear. He is lively and his face lights up as he talks about his students and the class. He is proud of the program and boasts that several of his students went on to pursue material science after leaving high school.
Since his retirement in 2008, Roy has enjoyed going on Road Scholar trips. He’s traveled the world with his wife attending these lecture tours, noting that his favorite tours were the small cruise tours. He’s also traveled the country training other teachers, showing them the program he’s worked so hard on, hoping that they’ll take it back to their schools with them.
Roy is excited to move to Bozeman and get out of the desert heat he lives in now. He likes to ski, and is excited to be close to the mountains and fishing. He’s ready to do a lot of fly-fishing, and hoping to get back into long walks and hikes. He commented that he’s really gotten used to the retirement lifestyle, sleeping in until 9am and having the ability to work on his projects on his own time, turning his profession into a hobby.
The lifestyle changes Bozeman Cohousing is offering makes Roy hopeful for the future. The neighborhood he lives in now is made up of strangers and it seems as though people have moved away from the friendly, community-based neighborhoods that he remembers. Cohousing communities are becoming increasingly popular around the world, which he believes is a push in the right direction.
In one word, Roy describes himself as funny. He enjoys jokes and likes to tell them and pass them on. With a laugh, he says “I’m better at remembering jokes than who I told them to.” Roy is lively, talkative, friendly, and eager to share his stories, and is looking forward to facing the new challenges of living within a community created completely by the people who live there. He hopes with this new experience, comes new problems to solve.
Erika has lived a unique life of adventure, and, in one word, Erika describes herself as thoughtful. She thinks she’s a good leader and likes to bring people together and have fun. At the end of the day, she just wants everyone to be happy. Even if she doesn’t always make good decisions or makes a mistake, she’ll always try to create a good environment for everyone.
Her life of adventure started early, moving around a lot before settling down in Bozeman. She’s lived in New York, St. Louis, Chicago, India, Detroit, and Alaska and still does a lot of traveling. However, Bozeman was the first place she knew that she really wanted to build a home. Bozeman is her favorite place she’s ever lived because it was easy to make friends quickly, the work she does is fun and fulfilling, Bozeman is where she met her husband, and everything she does for fun around the area feels like a vacation. She loves mountain biking, skiing, and spending time doing anything deep in the mountains.
Erika works in the film industry as a camera operator and producer. She primarily works on television shows and documentary films. Right now, she’s working on a NBC pilot series for a documentary survival skills show. She usually is working on things where she ends up outside all day. Because of the work she does as a filmmaker, she describes her days as physically uncomfortable, yet exciting. The show she’s currently working on takes her all over the world in crazy places and in crazy situations. She likes to work hard and play hard, and at the end of the day coming home is like heaven. No matter how crazy it gets, she couldn’t imagine doing anything else and hopes the projects keep getting cooler. She commented that if life in Bozeman plateaued for her right now, she’d be happy.
Erika’s thoughtfulness exists in her passion for social justice, and it’s something she works with a lot in film. There is a fire in her eyes as she talked about creating a world where everyone has a chance to exist as themselves, and believes that everyone who comes from privilege should take interest in social justice issues.
She also likes science fiction, cooking, and foraging for food. She believes there is nothing more fun than finding something edible outside.
She’s excited to live in Bozeman Cohousing and create a unique space for her family. The idea of living in minimalist fashion, sharing amenities, and being aware of your waste and what you want vs. what you need is an interesting aspect of cohousing. Erika is excited to be in close proximity to people who are like-minded and living in an area where you can get to know your neighbors and call upon each other when you need to. When she gets settled into her place in Bozeman Cohousing, she hopes to take a few months off to just sit and enjoy the space and be present during all the excitement of move-in. She’s ready to work in the garden and get to know everyone.
Younger and future generations make Erika hopeful for the future. Generally, she believes that young people are smarter, nicer, and cooler than she was at that age, and believes it’s a move in the right direction. She hopes that we get to a place where everyone feels heard and safe.
In one word, Chad describes himself as thoughtful. He tries to consider other positions and how his decisions will affect others. Though he admits that sometimes he’s thoughtful to a fault and begins over-thinking things, it is a principle he tries to live by. He likes to spend his time serving others and helping clear barriers others face, even if it’s something small like getting something started or doing menial tasks to help someone get through their day.
As I was talking with Chad, it was clear that this word suited him. Growing up, he lived in a ranching community in Lima, Montana. It was a small and tight knit community where people were there for their neighbors when they needed it. This community bred a sense of thoughtfulness in its residents because the community depended on it. Even as Chad left Lima and moved to Bozeman for college, he brought his thoughtfulness with him.
Chad’s professional life as a construction engineer reaches from Montana’s highways to the classroom. He is primarily a project manager for the Montana State Department of Transportation. He also manages a cooperative internship program and teaches a senior capstone class on construction estimation for the Montana State University Civil Engineering department.
Chad was most excited to talk about his work with the cooperative internship program. Cooperative programs involve mutual aid in achieving a goal. This program helps students studying civil and construction engineering gain field experience, while giving the MDT a chance to train potential future employees. Chad works with the interns, focusing on helping them learn the process that’s used to see a project through to completion. As we discussed the internship, it’s clear that he loves working with these students. He talks about this program with pride in his eyes and a smile on his face and it was apparent that helping these students get some vital experience working in the field, and encouraging them to continue studying engineering was a very fulfilling part of his life. He talked about it with undisguised energy and enthusiasm.
Children make Chad hopeful for the future because he feels like they embody the thoughtfulness he centers his life around. He feels like children are learning to care for others more and how to be more mindful of how their actions impact others. This along with this access to knowledge and information gives the future generations a lot of potential.
Chad’s desire to help others is just one of his passions along with reading and exploring new topics. His passions are what brought him to cohousing. He first discovered cohousing when reading a book called “Happy City.” This book sparked his interest and he started learning about how cities are built and about people’s behaviors and how they interact with each other. When he discovered Bozeman Cohousing a year later, he was interested in joining. He is excited about the idea of a “custom neighborhood” which is influenced by its future residents and intentionally designed to promote interaction between neighbors.
Now Chad is excited about the environment he’s helped create in this new community. He has a six-year-old daughter and is happy that there will be a group of kids for her to play with in the community. He relaxed as he talked about the opportunities she’ll have growing up in Bozeman Cohousing. She’ll have access to friends right outside their door in an environment created to be safe and engaging for them. This will be one of the biggest changes to their lives, as it will be easier for her to go out and play without needing to rely on the adults as much for planning and transportation.
As a college student getting ready to face the world, there are a lot of things I’ve had to start thinking about: jobs, bills, budgets, do I want to apply for another program or do I want to jump into the workforce, where do I want to live for the rest of my life? One of the things I never anticipated worrying about was housing. I always thought that I would live in a crappy little apartment for a couple of years before moving into a house of my own. But when I started looking for available housing options, I quickly discovered that it wasn’t going to be that easy.
There are a lot of different living options available today: single-family homes, shared living (or co-living), congregate housing, and cooperative housing are just a few examples. While shared living spaces are becoming more popular because of their affordability, the single-family home is still the most sought-after housing option. The single-family home provides its residents with their own space without having to worry about other occupants. However, this living style often unintentionally isolates its residents from others and is becoming increasingly hard to maintain, especially when family members have busy lives that make it hard to take care of daily domestic tasks and find time for their friends, family, or themselves.
In my search for an ideal living situation, I’ve discovered that many people are frustrated with the current options and their impacts on their daily lives, and have started to consider new ideas about what housing and community can look like. Curious, I began to dig deeper and found another living option called cohousing. In her book, Cohousing: a Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, Kathryn McCamant argues that cohousing provides a serious template for living lighter on our planet and improving people’s quality of life in child- and senior-friendly neighborhoods (4). Cohousing produces a type of living environment that encourages its members to lean on each other for certain needs while still being able to retain a certain amount of autonomy. At first, I didn’t understand what the big deal was behind this housing movement. To me, cohousing seemed like any other suburban neighborhood. Before I dismissed the idea, I decided I had to know more, so I buried myself in research.
History of Cohousing
First, I wanted to look at the history behind the cohousing movement to get a grasp on its background, mainly how it developed and why it gained popularity. The idea of cohousing appeared only 50 years ago, and while it’s still fairly new, several groups have formed their own housing developments and redefined what community means to them. In more isolated living arrangements, community is often defined as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” (The Oxford Dictionary). When creating a new living option, potential members wanted a community that was different than simply living close to each other. They wanted to redefine community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals” (The Oxford Dictionary). As more cohousing developments are being designed and built, they take inspiration from the first developments and work to build a similarly-connected community. Considering these two different definitions of community, it started becoming clear to me why cohousing would have developed.
Looking back on my own life, living in my childhood single-family home hadn’t been anything too exciting. I had a younger sister and a dog to play with, but there weren’t many other children around. As a child, I used to ask my mom if I could run over to one of my friend’s houses and see if they wanted to play, but she always told me no – it wasn’t that easy. To play with any of my friends, playdates had to be scheduled in advance, then either myself or my friends had to be driven a couple of neighborhoods over. Our neighborhood didn’t have a sense of closeness, and we weren’t allowed to go anywhere by ourselves until we were old enough to understand the dangers of the world and could recognize safe places like police stations. Now, I can understand why people would want to build their own neighborhoods and create a more connected community, now I just wanted to know how it all began.
The cohousing phenomenon started in two places. The first development was “built in 1972 outside Copenhagen, Denmark, by 27 families who wanted a greater sense of community than offered by suburban subdivisions or apartment complexes” (McCamant 5). Though they took a long time to get up and running, “the group that eventually developed Sunlight, in Oregon, began organizing in the 1970s along the lines of Danish cohousing but without any knowledge of others’ developing similar communities” (Fromm 93). These groups developed a community plan where each household has a private and self-sufficient residence with extensive shared common facilities within the neighborhood. The common facilities, especially the common dining hall where the community shares dinners, is the aspect of cohousing which makes it such a unique and favorable living environment for so many different groups of people. In her book, McCammant tells us that “by 2010, more than 70 of these communities have been built in Denmark, with many more planned” (5), and that “more than 120 cohousing communities have been built in North America, with another 50 plus in the planning phase or under construction” (4). These communities are not born out of isolated events, but are actively being sought out and built as a solution that feeds the housing needs of modern households. They continue to be sought out because of their innate ability to change and evolve as community needs change. These communities are built with the specific needs of their members in mind because they’re the ones who sit down and plan them.
Other Living Options
While cohousing communities use single-family homes for their residents to live in, it’s clear that these two living options are different. Traditional single-family neighborhoods focus solely on the building in which residents live, while cohousing focuses on the community built around these homes. However, cohousing isn’t the only living option that differs from the single-family home lifestyle that seems to frustrate people. While the information I have gathered this far has been helpful, I still didn’t know much about the other living options or why cohousing seems to be the preferred option.
Living Learning Communities
To better understand the different types of living options, I wanted to start with something I was very familiar with. Students who lived on campus might be familiar with Living Learning Communities, or LLCs, within the dorms. Montana State University has several of these LLC’s, which “allow students from similar disciplines to live in close proximity to each other. Residents of an LLC will share many of the same classes, professors and assignments as the person right next door. This model allows students to make connections and network with others in their program early in their college careers” (MSU Reslife). When I was a freshman and sophomore, I lived in an engineering LLC on campus. The entire hall of my dorm was filled with female engineering students. Living in such close proximity to people who were pursuing the same career path and had similar experiences helped me jump-start my college career. We studied, attended club events, and networked as a group. These kinds of tasks can be daunting for freshman and sophomore students, but our LLC set up a community for us where we could support each other because we all had similar experiences.
A Living Learning Community is not a permanent living situation, but students looking for a permanent home after dorm life might look into living in a cohousing community because it shares some of the same characteristics of living in an LLC. They both create a sense of community where residents share the same values as their neighbors, and are given the choice of how much they want to participate in community activities.
Another living arrangement that is popular with college age adults is shared living, where “several people rent or buy a house together. Each person has a private room and shares the rest of the house” (Fromm 269). Residents set up a small community within one house and each resident can choose how much to rely on the others, but the space is not one’s own. This living option is also somewhat familiar to me, as my friends and I were looking into moving off-campus for our final year and wanted to try renting a house together. This housing style appealed to us because we could live more independently, setting up our own community rules rather than adhere to the rules set up on-campus in the dorms. It was also cheaper to split rent on a four-bed, two-bath house than to continue to live on campus. While this seemed like an ideal housing arrangement, it quickly became a problem when two of our friends started dating, changing the dynamic of the small community we were trying to build. Ultimately, we decided to stop pursuing this living arrangement.
Shared living successfully creates a tight-knit community, but it sacrifices personal or private space to do so. The only space you can retreat to is your own bedroom, having to share a living room and kitchen with the rest of your housemates. Cohousing manages to balance the two ideals, giving its residents the best of both worlds with a completely autonomous housing unit and shared common spaces to encourage community bonding.
In his book, Collaborative Communities: Cohousing, Central Living, and Other New Forms of Housing with Shared Facilities, Dorit Fromm describes congregate housing, explaining “support services such as cooking and cleaning are available from a staff to help residents… Living units are small; some have private baths or partial kitchens. Also in the same building are common spaces for group activities and meals” (269). Dorms on campus could be considered a type of congregate housing even though they aren’t permanent living situations. In the dorms, you have access to a communal kitchen and other common spaces, but the cooking is done for you in the dining halls, and most of the cleaning is completed by the custodial staff. In terms of a more permanent living situation, most people would easily recognize this style of living in senior homes or other assisted living communities.
While congregate housing and cohousing both have common facilities to promote a sense of community, the living units in congregate housing aren’t completely autonomous. Like shared-living options, congregate housing does a good job of creating a community for its residents, but still forgets to provide coveted personal space where you can perform domestic tasks yourself should you ever want to.
Cooperative housing is the closest living option to cohousing. It involves “private self-contained units with shared ownership of certain common elements… members do not own their units individually; instead, they have one membership in the cooperative” (Fromm 269). Cooperative housing gives people the same freedom as cohousing does by setting up each unit to be autonomous while also providing shared spaces for connected communities. The main difference between these two living options is that a resident owns their own space in a cohousing community, whereas in cooperative communities they pay for a membership that allows them to live there, much like a rental agreement.
An interesting example of this type of living is called “The Vertical Street.” This community resides completely within an old apartment building which has been “renovated into collaborative housing… The stairway is the link between apartments and the common spaces, similar to a pedestrian street along a cluster of houses… the corridors, passageways, and landings, are now jointly furnished and used in common” (Fromm 139-140).
This is a great option for people who are looking to leave a standard living situation in favor of a community that has a greater support network, but residents still don’t own their own space. In cohousing communities, residents own their completely self-sufficient home in a community that is set up to support its members.
Now that I have explored the different options available, it’s becoming easier to understand what makes cohousing unique. Cohousing balances the desire to have personal and private space with the human need to connect to others and be involved in a supportive community. Each cohousing community is a little different depending on what members want to get out of this living style, as potential residents can be very active in the planning of their new community.
As a student of Montana State University, I wanted to check out the cohousing option in the city I have grown to love. Bozeman Cohousing is a living community that promotes a culture of sharing and interaction between its residents. Houses will be built in clusters that share common spaces outside. Its neighborhood is designed specifically to create a supportive, respectful, and friendly community with an emphasis on sustainability. A lot of Bozeman Cohousing community members also favor the idea of an urban agricultural environment, so the community has plans for a shared garden and goats… yes, goats!
They also plan on sharing guest houses, so when residents want people to stay with them for any length of time, guests have their own space to relax in without feeling like they’re intruding on the host’s space. This feature can help take a lot of pressure off of both the residents and their guests that can sometimes accompany travel. Site plans have been submitted to the city, and this is a huge step in building the ideal community space for its future residents. But it takes more than just constructing the actual building to create a connected and friendly community.
Members of the community are asked to contribute and engage in a couple of different ways. Each adult will cook once a month for the rest of the community, providing residents with dinners they don’t have to worry about five times a week. This takes a lot of pressure off family members who are just coming home from their busy lives and encourages members to be a part of the community. Cohousing members are also asked to participate in governing their community. Decisions about how the community will work are voted on by each household and are only implemented if they have reached a consensus. While this strategy isn’t the easiest choice when it comes to governing a group, it works to ensure that everyone feels like they have a voice, and generates a strong feeling of satisfaction when decisions are reached.
In my quest for housing, I found myself lost and confused by all the options I previously hadn’t known about. I dug into the topic until I felt I had a good understanding about the different types of living options available, and when I came across a new housing option called cohousing, I just had to know more.
The concept of cohousing has fascinated me since I started learning about it. At first, I didn’t really understand what the big deal was. Cohousing just seemed like a fancy term for “gated community.” As I continued investigating, I learned that cohousing was not at all what I expected. It can offer its members a solid support system within their own community and opportunities to connect with their neighbors on a deeper level than in standard neighborhoods. Residents have found a way to balance a sense of privacy and a sense of community in a way that works for them.
For anyone who wants to try living a more connected and lighter life, cohousing is an appealing solution. While cohousing is just one of many living options available today, its growing popularity over the years indicates that this living arrangement is more than a fad – it’s a housing option that many are looking for.
Coming straight out of college, I know cohousing isn’t the best option for me. I know that I need to find a cheap apartment that I can rent out until I can stand on my own two feet. But my long-term plan has changed. Before I started getting into this, I wanted to find a single-family home, and now it’s my second-choice option. When it’s time for me to find my own space, I’ll be looking for cohousing.