Packed In: First-of-its-kind cohousing community opens in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. – With more people moving into the Inland Northwest, there aren’t as many homes to accommodate them.

People are feeling the housing crunch, and a brand new, first-of-its-kind cohousing community in the Inland Northwest just finished and opened up. It already sold out.

Haystack Heights Cohousing has been in the works for five years, sitting in the South Perry District. Co-founder and resident Mariah McKay says all 39 units sold out a few years ago, even before it broke ground.

Each home costs around $200,000 to $400,000, which ranges from a one-bedroom, one-bath, to a four-bedroom townhouse with two bathrooms.

“That really speaks to the intensity of the need for more housing in our region, in our country and quite frankly, the world,” she said. “We were able to free up 39 units of housing elsewhere and other communities where people moved in from.”

McKay wants others to take note and see how well it’s been working and inspire them to build more cohousing communities.

People have been moving into Haystack Heights Cohousing over the last few years as each building gets finished. The community just opened up its final building and people are just settling in.

“We’re hoping to show people that cohousing can be a really flexible, high-quality lifestyle that meets a lot of different types of people’s needs,” she said. “It’s possible to do it together. There’s a lot of support for more of this and we want to help support other communities in getting off the ground in Spokane.”

The difference between this cohousing community compared to other condominiums or townhouses is that those who live there now all worked together to mostly design, fund and build Haystack Heights. There isn’t an outside, third-party investor or developer that started the community and is charging each person.

The goal of cohousing is to bring a community and families closer together to conserve resources and share spaces. Each home in the community is a bit different from each other. While they all have kitchens, not every home has a washer and dryer. They do have hook ups, if homeowners wanted them.

People who live in the community are able to share common spaces, too, including a large kitchen, laundry room, child care as well as a garden and more. They also have shared responsibilities outside of their home.

“That’s a big part of cohousing, is sharing that appliance that you’re not using most of the day,” said Joyce Biethan, a resident who showed off the communal laundry room.

Biethan’s lived at Haystack Heights for the last year, saying she loves how cohousing works. She knows it’s not for everyone.

“I like the sharing. I like working together. It’s funner to work in the garden when you’ve got somebody else digging beside you. It’s nice to eat a meal with other people,” she said.

Whenever a decision needs to be made on landscaping or any other household issues come up, the residents come together and figure out what to do that would be best for all of them.

“We made decisions based on consensus, which is not something we typically do in American culture. It’s usually a simple majority, democratic vote, but we reached on consensus on our major financial decisions and design choices and other aspects of community life,” McKay added.

“It takes a village to build a village,” Biethan added.

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