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June 22, 2023

Co-Everything Housing, Viola Tan, BArch Architecture ’24

by aweek05

Such a chaotic and fun starting at the Housing iLab! The past two weeks I got to know about multiple projects happening in the iLab, two of which I am going to work on this summer – Building Differently and Living Together.

Living Together is a research on how the City can support co-living projects in Boston. Although we’ve talked about co-housing so much at RISD, it is the first time I got to know about the difference between co-housing, co-living, co-ops, communes, and traditional shared housing. Co-living refers to three or more biologically unrelated people living in the same dwelling unit, sharing kitchens and common areas. I once got co-living and co-ops mixed up and hence got invited to a tour of co-ops in Boston. On the day of the tour it randomly started raining before the time we were supposed to meet, so I just waited outside one of the co-ops. The people coming in and out of the building were so nice!! You can tell that they had some kind of agency to the space and were super welcoming. Love this sense of agency and community, and community agency. Later in the trip, I was surprised to see such a large group of existing co-ops in the Fenway area. Actually, a building that I used to pass by a lot last summer in Fenway, Boston is a co-op!

As for my co-living project though, I talked to the director of a nonprofit in Boston looking to set up a co-living site. Hopefully we will be able to set up an RFP which will allow us to direct funds to these projects. Apart from the legal definitions around lease splitting etc., an important aspect that distinguishes co-living from traditional shared housing models is the intentionality in living together. Other co-living projects by this nonprofit have coaches coming in monthly to teach residents skills for living together.

Lastly, it was interesting to learn about how government RFPs work. I went to the Rent-to-Own RFP conference held by my supervisor and met some affordable housing developers from the community. For that project, we are trying to facilitate rent-to-own projects in Boston that help people gradually transition from tenancy to affordable homeownership. So far, the main job of the government that I’ve seen is to distribute money from the bigger government to hopefully the right people to do hopefully the right thing.

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