Communal Living Making A Comeback?
A year and a half ago, 30-year-old Gunes Henderson and her family moved from their house in suburban Aurora to a mansion in Hyde Park.
Henderson and her husband, both translators, share a loud, busy house with their two children and 13 people, including five children and a newborn. She and her family have two rooms to themselves, all sharing a bedroom and using their other room as a library and living room. The family shares a bathroom with another unrelated adult.
The Hendersons didn't know their housemates before finding them online and moving into the 21-year-old community. “We wanted our kids to be around more people and to feel like they had more of an extended family here,” she says, “to be with more people, to cook together.”
While it's commonly thought that communal living ended with the hippie era of the 1960s, it's still happening. Intentional communities—defined as people who live together on the basis of explicit common values—stood at 1,055 in the U.S. as of 2010, up from 325 in 1990. Those are the groups recognized by the Fellowship for Intentional Community based in Rutledge, Mo.
Twenty-five of the 30 communities in Illinois are in Chicago, says Laird Schaub, the group's executive secretary. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000, 83,500 households contained people who were unrelated but living together in Chicago. That number jumped to 93,500 in 2013.
“Cooperative living is not new, but it's changing,” says Brigid Maniates, office manager and bookkeeper at Qumbya Housing Cooperative in Hyde Park. While multigenerational living used to be the norm, people looking for co-housing situations today don't mind living with strangers as long as they have the same intentions, she says. “People are looking for that sort of community,” she says. “The American dream was that everyone lived in their own homes, but now there seems to be a readjustment.”
The movement is exploding because baby boomers are tired of the capitalistic, individualistic way they've been living and are craving a more sustainable, community way of life, says Joani Blank, 77, of Oakland, Calif., a former board member at the Cohousing Association of the United States, based in Durham, N.C.