Monday, May 9, 2011

I Bet You Don’t Know What Co-Housing Is!

Ming and Pemba Sherpa with their daughters:
Cheten and Chewang
Photo taken by Jon Shenton, marketing and communications
coordinator at Champlain Housing Trust
by Sara Varela,
Communications Specialist, Community Building and Organizing

Champlain Housing Trust (CHT), a NeighborWorks member, is located in northwestern Vermont. CHT is a community land trust that supports strong, vital communities. Here is an example of the type of work they do as reported by Julia Curry, co-op and community organizer at CHT.

"Ming and Pemba Sherpa came to Vermont from Nepal eighteen years ago, but life really changed when they discovered Champlain Housing Trust  in 2004. They were raising twin daughters, Cheten and Chewang, in a small one-bedroom apartment, so were happy to learn they could afford a spacious three-bedroom place from CHT for almost the same monthly rent as their previous place. Their long-term hope, though, was to buy a home.

They found that opportunity at East Village Co-housing in Burlington, where a community of 32 condominium owners live collaboratively. Co-housing balances the privacy of separate apartments with a commitment to interaction and sustainability.

When the Sherpa Family first looked into buying they were told they could not get the mortgage they needed, despite their good credit. Once they learned about CHT's shared equity program, though, things moved quickly. They met the requirements, got a mortgage with a bank that knows CHT’s program, and bought their townhouse less than a month later.

“There’s a lot that we like about living here,” Pemba comments. “The home is a good size and very energy-efficient. We work with other residents to grow a vegetable garden. I think it’s important that our daughters are learning where food comes from and what it takes to raise it.” “[It] feels more like life did in Nepal, because we are friends with our neighbors and do so much together. We have much more of a sense of community here and it feels safer for the girls, since we know our neighbors well,” Ming adds.

Residents of East Village cook some dinners together in the common area, meet periodically to manage the property, and get together informally in other ways. The values of sustainability and community are also evident in the location—with easy walking and bus access, to reduce car dependence—and the community’s choice to set more apartments at affordable prices than city regulations require. “Living here is sustainable and peaceful,” Pemba concludes. “It feels like family to us.”

As a demonstration of this sustainable mission, the co-housing community, the Champlain Housing Trust and the City of Burlington won the Home Depot Foundation’s 2010 Award for Excellence in Sustainable Community Development, a national award that recognizes the unique implementation of sustainability initiatives in Burlington, as exemplified by East Village Co-housing. Nine of the 32 homes at East Village are in Champlain Housing Trust’s shared equity portfolio, making them permanently affordable, and there are multiple “green” aspects of the development.

I was fascinated by the co-housing concept and thought I’d share this story here. For more information about the East Village Co-housing or to learn what co-housing is all about, click here: This is a great way to build community!

For more information about Champlain Housing Trust visit their website: