How to Build Living Communities

This past Saturday, I joined the Communities Squared Un-Conference put on by the folks at Langton Labs, Embassy Network and Rainbow Mansion – all community houses setup in a configuration they call “coliving.” Coliving is basically a group of people getting together to live intentionally with a set of values that bind them together. This differs from a roommates scenario for a number of reasons – the first being that coliving houses are typically larger than roommate situations, food is often shared and there are typically meals and events that the house puts on to connect others with like interests.

Communities^ was great – chalk full of people either living in, moving into, starting or founding communal houses, living in coliving situations, cohousing, etc. with a specific interest in creativity, sharing resources, reducing environmental impact, creating more belonging and connection and leading more flexible, nomadic lives. Nearly everyone there is involved creating the coliving movement on a tactical level.

It was inspiring to be around so many doers.

In attendance were representatives from Omni, Campus, Sandbox, Langton Labs, East Bay Cohousing, the Laundry, Embassy Network, Rainbow Mansion, Foundation Housing and many more.

If you’ve ever been to an conference, you know how chaotic and fascinating creating sessions on the fly can be. With such a group of leaders and revolutionaries, it seems that many had a lot to say and share with the rest of the group. Upon arrival, the main room was full of people with discussions around their basic experiences in setting up houses.

That discussion was followed by a passionate debate around scaling coliving into a larger movement of networked houses, communal apartment buildings, new age hotels and the like. Some think that scaling coliving will ruin it’s fringe charm, while others contend that living communally should be available to more people, not just the creative class who has access and knowledge of it. And in that same debate, some echoed the mantra of belonging that coliving provides – which was met with a bit of cynicism and lively contest “We used to solve that problem with marriage. Just because we need to breathe doesn’t mean that we should setup breathing groups.”

Whether or not you agree that our social dynamics and family systems are broken in the U.S., I think coliving or the idea that intentionally living with others, sharing the burden of costs, effort and resources is smart. Not only that, we are human beings who very much need each other. The interesting thing is that perhaps we don’t need each other as much logistically as we used to – we can now afford our own cars and homes. But there is something missing – as some needs are met, others emerge. I believe we need the sense that we belong, are secure and feel loved. Without that, none of this rat race even makes sense. All of our efforts boil back down to attempt to connect, experience and learn in this short period of time we’re all lucky enough to be alive in at the same time.

For me, coliving and living communities are the fabric of creating happy, vibrant individuals that are able to do more with less – relying more on others than on stuff for fulfillment – giving people the ability to have a sense of family where ever they happen to be. Marriage doesn’t seem to be fabulous institution for belonging anyway… many report feeling disconnected, misunderstood and even lonely in their partnerships. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with marriage, but I don’t think it should be a substitute for finding a tribe to run with. With a tribe, one can make better decisions on who to date and marry because people won’t be operating from a deficit they are trying to fill, but rather because the person in front of them adds something more than a refuge from loneliness.

Should we scale coliving? Absolutely.

What does that mean?

To me, it means taking a hybrid between the tenants of coworking, coliving, cohousing, urban hotels, community kitchens and the sharing economy to purposefully recreate and reimagine how we build, organize and orchestrate our homes. My vision of coliving is in large scale apartment buildings with big communal spaces, work areas, shared meals, events and technology that connects everyone in the same building to share not only who they are and what they think about, but also what they own and are willing to s

Notes from conference:

Who are your members?

Consensus might have to be it for certain groups. Others, might need leadership. Smart, perceptive, quick to pick up on what needs to happen, but lack interpersonal skills. Biggest lever you might have, composition of community.

Attitude around drugs has affected more communities than anything else that I’ve seen. Decide where you stand on this and decide early what the limitations are.

Strong selection process are typically based on judging people – tends to work well, but no one likes it.

The more clarity you have about what you’re looking for, the more it will look like what you want.

Who is a member of our community? The broader community may be – but it’s the people who are fully invested and pay monthly that make up the strength of your community.

Should communities go mainstream?

A good question to ask is – Why make coliving mainstream?

Designing a community from the ground up – how do we begin to transform cities. People are a huge leverage point. Planet viability.

Real estate – hardware and software – custom design those things.

Neighbors – create cultures. Bring the feeling of coliving to everyday community. Simple governance structures, wikis, plus ones, emails to lower overhead. How to package community in a way that makes sense.

Needs solved by college personal growth, collaborating on projects. How can we build cities? College campuses build cities. Taking over housing developments. Standard shared houses. Broader sense of space.

How can we leverage those spaces?

Hundreds of coliving house already around the planet?

Reinvent neighborhoods and neighbors – and build the sense of love and belonging in larger buildings.

Nuclear family
4 transient kids
How many square foot, outlets, etc.
Transient hotel
SRO government housing vouchers
Based on a mode of living that has changed
A greater degree of density
10-20 people
Common space to work on space

Movements that changed everything:

The internet
Women working

Our society is not adjusted to

VALUES BASED decision making

How do we rebuild that?

Post industrial

Demand exceeds supply

Supply side issue – legal and financial infrastructure

The baby boomers are reinventing institutions. Retiring boomers – existing homes that are sitting around empty. How can I keep my independence through interdependence?

Cohouseholding – learn from cohousing. doing dinners – houses could get together to form solidarity economy.

Senior cohousing Mt. View

Time where there is massive need to resource efficiency,

Massive abundance moving us toward this bigger questions

Rapid change of family structure, people living together

Necessity – community and social fabric, people are starving for connection

People to come together to form connections

What are the problems?

How do you get the financing for this stuff?

Analytical return – more money from this than typical housing. How do you scale past 100 people? How do you get to 10,000 people?


Daniel Schmit broke down the issues with scale for coliving and community housing to really grow, these systems need to be put in place:

Financial infrastructure
Loans and financing that makes sense to the borrowers as well as the lenders or investors. How do we make community housing more profitable than typical housing? Can we prove the model?

Legal infrastructure
A new form of housing and codes that allow for these types of arrangements in real estate development.

Social infrastructure
People don’t know they want it yet, so the structures for this need to be put into place.

What people committed to vs. what they actually committed to. What is the shared vision for living together?

How do know we want to live together?

How are you sharing expenses and work?

How do you get people in? How do you get people out? Killer, if it’s not decided ahead of time.

What’s your decision making? Rules for making decisions? What kind of decision making around people coming in and out? Consequences?

I know we have a rule – but you can’t kick me out. – what are the consequences?

What do you do if community closes?Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download?

Can / Can’t / Ask

Things you can do
Things you can’t do
Things you need permission for

This helps avoid fights

Things that come up





Public vs. private

Toxics and organics

Can people run businesses?

Kids vs. singles



Do we change the rules or can we create exceptions?

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