Olivia Samad doesn’t go to church, she isn’t married and she is an only child. Living in Los Angeles she says, “I still need community.” For three years she has been working to establish the city’s first cohousing community, inHabitLA. A lawyer by trade Samad is a founding member of the organization.
Different from a condo, a co-op or a commune, cohousing members own individual units that are supplemented by common facilities. Often called an intentional community cohousing aims to increase happiness by building community.
“I want to be an example of how we can do housing in the future,” she says. While cohousing’s main function isn’t for affordability, a lower cost of housing is often the result of living in a denser community and sharing resources. For example, in a typical single family home each home would have a guest bedroom. In cohousing the community would share guest bedrooms and use them only when necessary.
“It’s something that makes people really happy,” she says talking about the sense of community. Samad was first introduced to cohousing in 2000 when she moved into a cohousing community in Washington DC. Prior to living there she had never heard of it before, but instantly enjoyed the sense of community that it created.
In addition to community, most cohousing sites have a lower carbon footprint than a single family home and place a strong emphasis on having connection with their surrounding environment. For Samad being close to public transportation is also important when selecting a piece of land to build.
After moving back to Southern California in 2003 she starting working toward making cohousing a reality in Los Angeles. For the past three years she has been working on getting inHabitLA off the ground.
“A lot of what cohousing facilitates is a healthy cohesive neighborhood,” she says. Living in a shared community single parents, senior citizens and families can share dinners, guest rooms, kitchens and other community facilities.
Samad is in the process of searching for land. She has eight families that are serious about joining inHabitLA and another 100 on a list waiting for land to be purchased before moving forward with any decisions. She is optimistic that in three years the community will be up and running.
“This is the year we’re going to find a sight and a developer,” she says confidently.