Back in 1998 a revolutionary concept was offered to Utah homebuyers: co-housing. The notion was based on similar projects in Europe where homes/condos/townhomes are clustered around each other to create ‘intentional community’. Wasatch Commons (@1400 South 1500 West) was built on 4.5 acres in the Glendale neighborhood with 26 townhomes. I was the original listing agent for the project and trying to explain the idea to folks was a challenge for the most part, however some people not only understood the idea immediately, but they also wanted IN! Why?
Co-housing comes in different forms around the world. Here, the townhomes in WC have different floorplans, and you own your unit (although some owners rent out their units). You must park on the west edge of the community and walk-in to your property; thus you pass by your neighbors front doors every day along the beautiful winding paths in the project. There is a common house with guest rooms for owners’ guests and where there are regular shared meals and events for the owners and tenants who live there, a workshop and car repair bay, an exercise room, community fruit trees and garden pots, play areas for kids and lovely green spaces throughout. They are self-managed, and everyone has a say in how things are run throughout the year.
Since 1998 there have been no other co-housing projects built in Utah to my knowledge, and that’s a shame. The only new idea for a co-housing-like project is a tiny home village by the Other Side Academy planned for the northwest side of the Salt Lake Valley. However, the concept is gaining traction around the country since housing is so expensive. Culdesac in Tempe, Arizona has opened and is getting rave reviews. It’s all built around the idea of no cars and that people are happier in a walkable neighborhood. Residents get free rides on the Metro (a station is a short walk away), 15% off Lyft rides, Bird scooters are on site and there’s 1,000+bike parking spotsl. It is a rental community with studios to three bedroom units. There are 50+ shared courtyards that meander around the grounds with two plus miles of bike and footpaths, zero square feet of asphalt, 700 apartments and 44,000 square feet of retail and amenities for small, local businesses, a pool and dog park. Each unit has a washer and dryer, plenty of natural light and is very pet friendly. It’s billed as a ‘5-minute city’ because you’re only minutes away from an urban market, a bike shop and cozy places to eat. There are firepits, BBQ grills and water features (but the landscaping is desert/low water), and hammocks scattered around the 17 acres there.
Back here all we need is a futuristic developer and land for the next co-housing project. The time is now for ideas and actions for affordable housing options in Utah’s future!