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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is Community Housing Diversity Dead?

I have been a member of an organization called the Fellowship for Intentional Communities for the past couple of years. This is an organization that has promoted small co-housing development as a way to have people more connected in communities. We have some co-housing projects in our area that represent this model. Liberty Village near Frederick is a place I visited a few years ago when I was working on an inter-generational housing project in Baltimore called Clare Court. They have been humorously called "communes for aging baby boomers."

Those of us that have seen the development of Columbia have lived in probably the largest and most successful intentional community in the Country. We now see developments like Maple Lawn and Celebration in Florida that represent private development taking the idea of planning an upscale community minus the economic diversity of the original planning that went into Columbia. As the housing market changed in the 80's and 90's we saw the newer villages in Columbia loose the housing choice diversity of the older villages. Is the diverse planned community dead? Is it an outdated idea from the idealistic 60's and the interest in building a Great Society?

For those interested in this issue in more detail I have included the link and information below from their website.

Fellowship for Intentional Communities

What does it mean to “Create Sustainable Culture”?

You hear the word sustainability all the time now — in regards to the environment, learning to how shrink your carbon footprint, ways to lessen dependence on limited resources like oil, how to make your community more resilient to ecological changes such that we humans can not only maintain our presence on the planet without destroying it, but do so in a regenerative manner….

But what about how to live together, despite our differences? How to get along, accomplish shared goals and manifest shared vision? How do we move from being a competitive culture to a more cooperative one?

Most everyone has had some experience in groups situations where, regardless of available resources and common goals, working together to move toward desired outcomes was fraught with difficulty. Whether it be personality conflicts or communication difficulties, lack of structure and solid agreements, different work ethic or style, lack of clear leadership or responsibility….you get the picture. Regardless of why a group’s dynamics are not always easy to work (and play) within, it is essential that people learn to function well together to make the process of accomplishing their mission more easily and efficiently attained. Experiencing cooperation in a small group situation is a step towards creating a more cooperative culture locally, and globally.

The intentional communities movement has decades of experience in just these sort of situations- how to live together while holding a common vision, and not only survive as a community, but thrive. These communities come in many shapes and styles, have a vast variety of reasons their members choose to live in community with a shared intention, but the common denominators involved in learning how to do so are often quite similar. Solving conflicts, creating solid decision making processes, learning how to best communicate and listen to each other – working with these subjects and more help people strengthen the bonds of community.

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