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Home Truths: Co-housing in the East Bay offers an alternative to traditional living

With some cohousing, co-living inhabitants share chores and a kitchen; for others they live more independently and share expenses. Photo: Courtesy Red Oak Realty

Home Truths, a quarterly report on the state of the Berkeley real estate market, is brought to you by Red Oak Realty.

Most of us in the East Bay live exclusively with our nuclear families, but not all.

Some East Bay residents choose to live in intentional communities that transcend the traditional nuclear family makeup of home exclusively with partners, parents or children.

The East Bay’s grand Victorians (and other homes of course) have always hosted communities of roommates, some more organized than others. In this post, we highlight the latter — shared housing that formalizes the living relationship between unrelated members to a greater degree.

While most East Bay real estate consumers live more traditionally, some East Bay residents (and some of our clients) choose to live in intentional communities.  

These different living situations vary from independent, personal arrangements between just two people or families to those at higher scales with a framework provided by a corporation or person to organize living for many families in one place. While not always the case, living in intentional communities can be a more affordable way to live in the East Bay.

Collaboration lives at the heart of these arrangements, which, of course, can vary greatly. In some cases, co-living inhabitants share chores and kitchen space, in others they live more independently and share expenses for upkeep of shared property and expenses.

Intentional communities in the East Bay

Intentional communities come in two flavors: cohousing, where individual homes are clustered together in a tight-knit community with more privacy, and co-living, where between 12 to 30 people can share a large house, including all common areas. Co-housing communities tend to offer more permanent living situations than co-living, which can have higher turnover rates.

Residents find these communities in a variety of ways, including by visiting Cohousing California or by participating in the East Bay Cohousing Meetup group, which covers student coops, collective and co-living households, urban and rural eco-villages, faith-based or service-oriented, moshads, Kibbutzes and income-sharing communes.

Typically, co-housing developments have between 15 and 40 homes.

Below, are just a few East Bay co-housing communities.

The Ranch at Dogtown

The Ranch at Dogtown, on 8,000 square feet of reclaimed land, has nine buildings. Photo: Courtesy Red Oak Realty

Located three blocks from the Bay Trail, The Ranch at Dogtown in West Oakland’s Dogtown neighborhood features a variety of nine buildings, from houses and apartments to cottages and lofts.

On 8,000 square feet of reclaimed land and surrounded by a tall gate, the community, established in 1990, features a central garden, a chicken coop and bees. The community has approximately 30 members who share the communal garden and taking care of the land.

Diversity, in all senses of the word, plays a big role in what makes the East Bay so great. The area’s diverse geography, races, cultures, mindsets and living situations make us all richer. Stay tuned for future celebrations of our home market’s diversity.

Berkeley Cohousing

Established in 1994, Berkeley Cohousing has 15 units (cottages and duplexes) in 10 buildings on a former farm in West Berkeley. The 0.8-acre community has an arrangement with the city that keeps price appreciation of the community’s homes under market value; they currently go for approximately 50% below market rate, but buyers have to meet certain low-income requirements and pass a community interview.

The community has approximately 34 adult and nine child members, and, like many cohousing communities, features a common house where joint meals and gatherings take place.

Members in each housing unit pay between $300 and $400 each month in community dues, which covers the cost of group meals (which occur from two to five times each week) and other upkeep needs; members participate in cleaning and cooking duties. Members make decisions based on consensus, which can be supplemented by a vote if necessary.

Temescal Creek cohousing

Founded in 1999 when a community of five families bought three adjacent duplexes, Temescal Creek Cohousing, in Oakland’s popular Temescal neighborhood, has 11 units on 0.75 acres with approximately 20 adult members.

The community calls itself a cohousing “retrofit,” as the founders took traditional homes and converted them into their intentional community. The community shares between two and five meals each week and makes decisions by consensus with a fall-back option of winning an 80% majority.

The community also has a common house, which the community members financed by taking out individual home equity lines of credit.

Home Truths is written and sponsored by Red Oak Realty, the largest independent real estate broker in the East Bay, serving the community since 1976. Read more in this series. If you are interested in learning more about the local real estate market or are considering buying or selling a home, contact Red Oak at hello@redoakrealty.com, 510-250 8780.