It appears that a tiny house boom is well underway, and along with it comes a smattering of emerging tiny house communities. Whether they are tiny or otherwise, it takes a lot of work to keep an intentional community together. Sometimes, despite the best of initial intentions, they can be waylaid by ideological differences, or poor governance. But when it does work, the rewards can be great: a sense of belonging, purpose and togetherness from being part of a community can give life much greater meaning.
Based on a cohousing model, Menard and five others share a backyard, one-third of an acre in size, in addition to sharing the 1,450-square-foot "Big House" belonging to the land. So far, the members of Simply Home, whose ages range from 28 to 50, have been planning various amenities like a communal garden and even a hot tub. Jenna of Tiny House Giant Journey gets a short tour of the community, seeing how it's set up and how amenities are shared:
So how did Simply Home Community come about? Menard told us by email that someone from a "sub-committee" of tiny housers were in the neighbourhood, looking for land to build a tiny community, and found this large lot with an existing house. An offer was made, and the property is now owned by two individuals from the community. However, there are plans to change ownership to a multi-member LLC (Limited Liability Company).
In this interview from Unlikely Lives, Menard goes into greater detail about how life with a combination of tiny houses and one "Big House" works:
There’s a big house, where we have three people living, and currently we also have a guest room. Everybody in the community has full access to the big house kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom, and laundry. That works out really nicely because we can have game nights, we can host dinner parties, we can do movie nights, and when we do have guests, they can stay in the guest room. Then we have four little houses on the property that are basically acting as “detached bedrooms” – a little space of our own.
It seems that the cohousing model is working well: each resident has their own private space, but many facilities and responsibilities are shared. There's a huge spectrum of how sharing and communality can happen in any intentional community, and it appears that the cohousing concept is a good fit for the residents here, giving them a balance of privacy but still allowing them to share resources and efforts.
But it all goes back to finding ways to keep the community cohesive, as well as finding that initial spark. Weekly work parties, regular community dinners are all good ideas. Menard tells us what she thinks potential members could do to get a community started, and what Simply Home members have done to stay on the same page:
[First] discuss needs and wants over a series of potlucks to determine whether you have enough compatibility amongst yourselves to create a community. We have created a set of governing documents called the Community Living Agreements that everyone agrees to follow when they join the community.
A sense of belonging can be vital to one's well-being, but how that belonging is expressed and sustained will look different for different people. There's no doubt that as tiny homes become more widespread, different kinds of tiny communities will begin popping up, so it'll be interesting to see what approaches will be followed or pioneered as these emergent tiny house communities come out of the woodwork.
To find out more about Simply Home, visit their Facebook page or read Lina's interview on Unlikely Lives; or if you are in the Portland area, take a tour of the community on Sunday, June 7, 2015; tickets available here.