Mar 092004
Authors: Jamie Way

Just 10 blocks north of campus, Linda Albright shares her yard

with 33 other homes.

“I call it condos with an attitude,” said Albright, a resident

at River Rock Commons, a co-housing community.

The co-housing unit was developed about five years ago, when a

group of individuals met with developers to design a co-housing

unit. Although most of the founders are no longer living at River

Rock Commons, families continue to occupy the units.

River Rock Commons is made up of 34 units sitting on three acres

of land. The individual homes face one another and have a large

mutual yard as well as a common house.

The common house is made up of a deck, kids room, professional

kitchen and dining room. Meal clubs meet there on a weekly basis to

share the responsibility of cooking and cleaning dinner and to eat

as a group in the dining room.

Albright said a variety of people come to the commons, and no

one is forced to participate in the community events.

“I think for most people it was a desire to be closer to your

neighbors,” Albright said. “We like to think we look out for one


The commons may not be a favorable location for an introvert,

according to Albright.

“It has to be someone who wants to be more closely associated

with your neighbors,” she said. “We’re probably not as middle of

the road as other people.”

The community may present opportunities for the residents that

are not as easily accessible to the average neighborhood residents,

according to Laura Macagno-Shang, senior staff counselor for the

University Counseling Center.

“In a lot of neighborhoods, the opportunity to have anything to

do with your neighbors is very limited,” Macagno-Shang said. “The

houses are set up to prevent that.”

Although the co-housing model may be an experiment in the United

States, the model is the norm in other countries.

“This has been the practice of most cultures for hundreds of

years,” Macagno-Shang said. “There are all sorts of experiments on

how we live.”

There may be a number of benefits to living in a co-housing

unit, including less stress due to shared responsibilities, more

time for children and the opportunity for well-developed skills in

communicating with people of different ages, Macagno-Shang


“It’s an interesting model that allows people to have more human

relationships,” she said. “In this model, perhaps there would be

more people who had more time for the kids.”

Macagno-Shang also said that while the model would likely be

beneficial for children, there is potential for problems.

“I think the potential for conflict is there,” she said. “People

have to accommodate a little bit.”

Carole Makela, a consumer and family studies professor, said

having multiple role models would not likely confuse a child, but

may even be beneficial.

“In many cases it’s probably more positive,” Makela said. “Most

kids don’t have enough role models.”

Makela said problems might arise if co-housing is not what

someone expected it to be.

“We go into experience(s) with expectations, but because of the

dynamics and mix of people, sometimes it turns out that way and

sometimes it doesn’t,” Makela said.

The living arrangement may advocate sharing and cooperation,

while encouraging relationships similar to those that may be

difficult for those who live in an average community, Makela


“I think co-housing serves an important purpose recognizing that

a portion of the population does not live near extended family,”

Makela said.

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