We live pretty isolating lives, you and I - lives not very conducive to creating meaningful friendships. But why? Where and how we live is to blame.
In a recent NY Times editorial sociology professor Rebecca G. Adams stated we need three things for significant relationship to bud: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.“ So how well are we doing with that?
At home, we‘re typically not meeting anyone new. So that‘s out. We leave the house to travel via car, bus, train, or bike - not areas where we‘re particularly comfortable letting our guard down. We need to keep that up to survive the daily commute, y‘know? And the few people we may encounter on these paths, we‘re unlikely to interact with again.
So far, we‘re doing pretty poorly here. It’s looking grim, guys.
What to do?
1. Walkable Areas. There are very few places in America that truly have walkable convenience to all daily life needs. Mostly, those we have are in the hyper dense metropolises of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, and a few select other cities where the bulk of the American population seems to be centered. Why? Because walkability presents a human scale. The human brain likes to understand the terrain and possibilities around us, and it can reach them on foot - the mode of transportation our brains knows best. Here‘s a place we can be comfortable, let our guard down, and start letting people in. These areas are so great, in fact, that everyone wants them. Making matters worse, they’re in very short supply because zoning regulations all over america actively work AGAINST creating more of them - so the ones we have are immensely dense and prohibitively expensive.
2. Co-Housing. This puts us in even closer proximity with other people - we see them almost every day, as if they were family, because we are living together. We will forge friendships simply because we are near one another. All the factors are there - proximity, comfortability, and repeated random interactions. Perfect.
So, the most powerful system for community must naturally be living in Co-Housing WITHIN a walkable area.
How do we get there?
Enter Common, founded by Brad Hargreaves, Co-Founder of General Assembly. Why do I mention Hargreaves‘ General Assembly? Because his involvement with the education institution directly exposed him to his graduates’ needs for flexible, attainable, painless housing. He couldn‘t find an existing clear solution - so he made it himself.
He thinks along the lines “If we had to rebuild our housing structure from scratch for our needs today, what would that look like?“ The answer - community-driven shared housing built on set of core-values shared amongst everyone at Common, including the tenants who live there.
At Common, Tenants rent a single beautifully furnished bedroom that is part of a communal suite outfitted to the nines with everything one could need. To get such a room, prospective tenants go through a simple, easy, and painless application process that does not bear the nigh insurmountable rigors and requirements of typical apartment hunting in New York City.
The aesthetic of ‘Mid-century modern meets Hudson Valley Americana’ is achieved through furnishings by Restoration Hardware and West Elm. Supremely comfortable sleep is supplied by the duo of Casper beds and Parachute sheets, and exceptional sparkle is brought to every corner weekly by cleaning service Slate.
The tenants are treated to community events, talks, a weekly potluck dinner, cleaning services, free wi-fi, and unlimited kitchen and bathroom supplies, including the heavenly duo of infinite coffee & toilet paper.
A grand communal hall, which is the stage for the shared meals, week, talks & events, is also geared up a work space for telecommuters, tech workers, and anyone else who gets their job done on a laptop. Sure, it‘s just downstairs from your home, but as Hargreaves says, “even a little separation between work and life can go a long way.”
Common seeks out members who will share their vision and aspirations, so there will be a sense of connectedness and community among those who live there - everyone striving toward a goal of more connected living - among themselves in the house, and the community around them. Their first location in Crown Heights, 1163 Pacific Street, has already seen nearly 500 applications for their just 19 rooms, but don‘t worry - we‘ll still have our chance to join in, as Common has aspirations for many, many more locations to come.