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500 Communities, Beyond the Curriculum

Our 500 Communities Program, and What It's All About. . .

Unless you were born in community, most people don't grow up with a knowledge of cohousing. Most people come upon cohousing in adulthood, as an answer to concerning questions; How can I incorporate more socialization into my life? How can I live lighter on the earth? What kind of a neighborhood do I want to raise my children in? In searching for the answers to these questions, cohousers find their community.

The 500 Communities Program is no different. All of our trainees found the program through different questions; How can I facilitate housing for the neuro-diverse? Is there a way to sell real estate that I actually believe in? What are the economic implications of sustainable living? They come from a range of professions with questions who's answers all have something in common; cohousing. Through these questions they find their professional community.

The program is applicable to many different job fields, and was designed with all means of collaborative development in mind. It's intention is not to teach one model of cohousing, but to build on the lessons learned as we explore models of collaborative development not taught in university or trade school. Beyond the curriculum, the program is providing a much needed community of cohousing and development professionals working in this space. For cohousing and other intentional communities to continue to develop, there must be a professional world facilitating growth. There must be realtors and sales people who understand how to market cohousing, loan officers who understand the uniqueness of a cohousing construction loan, developers and project managers who understand the importance of social community, and academics who can study the benefits of living in community.

That is the professional culture and community that we are creating with the 500 Communities Program.

An integral (and probably the most fun) part of the 500 Communities Program is the day long intensive structured around the National Cohousing Conference. . .

On Thursday, before the commencement of the National Cohousing Conference in Portland, past and present 500 Communities Program Affiliates gathered for an entire day of sharing, learning, and guest speakers.

The meeting was held in the common house of PDX Commons, which fueled the day's inspiration. Katie McCamant was the development consultant for PDX Commons, and had worked closely on the project with their developer, UDP, as well as the community's founding members. Seeing the project not only complete, but thriving, full of residents, and hosting the next generation of cohousing professionals was a full circle moment.

The day began with program participants sharing their projects. To name just a few; Shelly Parks and Sarah Arthurs talked about their goals of mastering the cohousing sales process. Desiree Kameka shared her progress in facilitating community housing for families with autistic family members. Sean Morris lent his view on database management software for cohousing communities. David Kelley and John Caye shared their ideas of partnering with cohousing groups as development professionals. Everyone's projects were diverse in nature, but collected in intention and camaraderie.

Then the group heard from some experts in the field. Our President, Katie McCamant, Jim Leach of Wonderland Hill Development Company and long time colleague of Katie's, Joran Bass of UDP, Eli Spevak of Orange Splot, and Ross Chapin, architect and author of Pocket Neighborhoods.

Joren Bass, Lim Leach, Eli Spevak, Katie McCamant, and Ross Chapin

Combined, these five developers and architects have over 150 years of experience developing and/or designing innovative housing models. It was fascinating to hear about their different approaches and what they have learned over the years. One take away was the importance of getting the buyers involved. It’s hard to sell community if people can’t meet the community. Ross Chapin, who has worked with dozens of developers to build Pocket Neighborhoods, recognized that we need special sales people or realtors who know how to introduce the benefits of community in addition to just selling “the house.” This discussion could have gone on for hours, and it did over the party that followed and through out the conference.

Networking and Tacos...

After the day long intensive of 500 Communities members hearing from the experts, collaborating, and sharing, the doors were opened up to all cohousing professionals. The party was catered by ¿ Por Qué No ? Taqueria, and cohousing professionals mingled and networked over local wines.

Like the 500 Communities gathering, the party was filled with people working on a wide range of projects. There were architects, community developers, marketers, real estate professionals, Cohousing Association board members, and more. Old friends and colleagues caught up, and professionals new to the cohousing world began building their own relationships.

Will you be joining us next time? Our 2018 class is coming to an end and we are already thinking about 2020...

We will begin accepting applications for our 2020 500 Communities Program in May, 2020. Before the application period we will be hosting online information sessions, where you can learn more details about the program. Make sure to keep up with our newsletters to catch the dates of the online information sessions, and the opening of the application period!

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