White Rock housing

Above, White Rock Crossing in Dallas is being built cohousing-style, with homes facing each other across a courtyard. Courtesy of White Rock Crossing.

Sept. 7, 2015

Cohousing is catching on worldwide as an environmentally friendly living arrangement and now it has a toehold in North Texas. At least three communities are taking root here that fall somewhere on the spectrum of cooperative, community-oriented living – one urban, one rural, one suburban. Dallas Co-Housing, Wildflower Ecovillage and White Rock Crossing Cohousing are at different stages of making cohousing a reality. 

And this month, there’s a chance to hear from a national leader in the trend. Alice Alexander, executive director of the Cohousing Association of the United States, is coming to Dallas' West End Sept. 19 to boost the local movement. It's an opportunity for participants in area projects to gather with Alexander at The Grove coworking space, hear her insights and share their visions. Two of the three local communities mentioned are booked to participate.

Alice Alexander, the executive director of the Cohousing Association of the United States, is speaking Sept. 19 at 2 pm at the Grove in Dallas.

Cohousing began in Denmark in the 1970s, according to the Cohousing Association of the United States.

In the documentary film Happy, Danes recount how their lives improved by creating community housing. With common space for meals and neighbors to share in recreation, child-care and chores, a collaborative way of living developed that, well... put them in a film about happiness. 

Above, Cohousing in Denmark from the documentary "Happy."

Cohousing has six characteristics distinct from other collaborative housing, per CAUS. In a participatory process, future residents collaboratively design the community to meet their needs. A neighborhood design focus informs buildings' physical layout and orientation so as to encourage a sense of community. Common facilities made for daily use, in addition to the private residences, are integral to the community. With resident management, cohousing communities are self-determined and maintained largely by residents. Unlike in a commune, no shared community economy exists – cohousing residents support themselves independently.  

In these three local projects, the investment required, whether sweat equity, brainwork, legwork or cash, varies widely.

Dallas Cohousing

Dallas Cohousing, started by Angela Alston and Hugh Resnick, seeks to create cohousing in the inner-city. This is their second effort, after their first cohousing team discovered differences in their needs as the process developed and disbanded. 

Right, Angela Alston and Hugh Resnick are cofounders of Dallas Cohousing. Courtesy of Dallas Morning News.

"We really want to be urban Dallas, close as possible to DART," says Alston. "We aim to be as cost-efficient and affordable as possible." 

They're looking to retrofit an apartment or commercial building.

"This is the best time for people to get involved… to be part of the planning, choosing the neighborhood and the guiding values for the community... Being green is important, and there are economies in sharing."  

Wildflower Ecovillage

Being green is the byword for Wildflower Ecovillage, founded by Terry Jenson and preparing ground now on a 70-acre tract near Greenville. 

"We'll have some people setting up temporary housing this fall," says Jenson, a permaculture instructor of retirement age who decided instead to "make the Earth a better place" by pioneering a greener way of living. 

A greenhouse going up at the Wildflower Ecovillage.

The land will be managed by permaculture, a design philosophy developed in Australia in the 1970s. Applied to land care, permaculture deploys tools and systems modeled on the processes of nature. Accordingly, now Ecovillage members are building swales to catch rainwater and clearing cover crops planted to replenish the soil. Rainwater collection, water storage in ponds and solar power are in the works. 

“It will probably be next summer when people begin building permanent housing," says Jenson.

They'll use DIY compressed-earth bricks and "a Frank Lloyd Wright foundation that can be done without a builder," she says.

White Rock Crossing

White Rock Crossing Cohousing near White Rock Lake is waiting on a city permit to begin building a townhome community inspired by co-housing. Its main co-housing feature is the design layout of individual dwellings grouped around a common great hall. In contrast to the two resident-guided projects, it was designed and developed by builder AndersonSargent Custom Builders. Buyer participation in the design will consist of choosing among floorplans and optional details, according to the project website. Three of 17 lots are presold. 

Illustration courtesy of White Rock Crossing.

Green Speaker: What is Cohousing?

What: Informational cohousing gathering, featuring Alice Alexander, the executive director of the Cohousing Association of the United States

When: Sept. 19, 2 p.m.

Where: The Grove, 501 Elm St, Suite 450, Dallas

Green Source DFW articles: 
Wildflower Ecovillage is putting down roots in Greenville
Eco-friendly cohousing development underway near White Rock Lake

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