Group advocates co-housing in Chicago

May 30, 2009 (CHICAGO) It's called co-housing. It's an old concept, but its modern-day variation has not yet arrived in Chicago, though some would like it to.

"People who first brought co-housing to the U.S. did it because they couldn't find close-knit neighborhoods to raise their kids like the ones they were reared in and they thought, 'Well let's do like the Danish did and find people who want to share that kind of living today,'" JoLynn Doerr, of Praise Onion CoHousing, said.

Here's the proposal: On a half-acre block in Bronzeville on the South Side would rise a not-yet-designed low-rise condo building with approximately 20 units. Each buyer would own their own unit, but there would be common areas shared by all and, more importantly, responsibilities and activities shared by all.

Two or three times a week, residents would be able to share cooking and chores, such as maintenance or clean-up. The group would govern itself by consensus. So, there would be no way someone would not know his or her neighbors.

"This is not a commune," Hal Mead, of Praise Onion CoHousing, said. "Sex, drugs and rock and roll of the 60s, that's not what it is. It is a community -- hopefully a wide range of people from their 20s with kids to older people."

There are roughly 100 or more co-housing communities in the United States today, mostly on the coasts or in college towns. This project would be a first for Chicago.

"We're interested in some sort of community where we react more with neighbors and friends," said Evanston resident Jeff Boarinim, who attended the open house.

This co-housing proposal is still in the formative stages.

Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell says she is intrigued by the proposal, but it needs a lot more detail, that is to say, a solid financial commitment, before she lends her blessing to the purchase and development of that city-owned half-acre of land.

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