COHOUSING AND COTTAGE developments are designed to create strong social ties among residents while preserving natural areas and reducing the use of natural resources. Small, clustered units with shared kitchens, eating areas, playrooms, and sleeping facilities for guests encourage residents to dine together or socialize while doing the laundry. Competition for cohousing can be stiff: Units tend to fill up fast and stay off the market for long stretches. The 13-unit Songaia Community in Bothell boasts an unheard of 1 percent turnover rate, and West Seattle’s 23-unit Puget Ridge has put only 10 homes up for sale in 14 years. And while communal amenities and utilities may sound like a bargain, cohousing units on average mirror the price per square foot of a traditional single-family home in the same neighborhood. Instead, people buy into the lifestyle.
Ed Fischburg and his wife left their longtime Chicago-area home and purchased the last unit in Puget Ridge when it opened in 1994. Their son, who helped develop and now lives in the community, convinced them that the atmosphere would be perfect for them. “I hit the ground running because I am a coach, and there was a built-in audience for me here. I’ve coached every kid here in some sport, which is incredibly wonderful because it keeps me young and active,” says Fischburg, now 80. “And because I am the oldest person in my community, I became a mentor by default. If I was still in Chicago, I would be more or less isolated.”
The social perks drive the hundred-names-deep waiting lists of people willing to pay a premium to join Seattle’s growing cohousing projects. Currently there are 250 total cohousing units in the area, but high demand has led to several new developments, including Bothell’s 16-unit Clearwater Commons and New Earth Song Cohousing slated to adjoin Songaia.