Intentional community is a broad term that could be used for many types of collaborative housing. In the Australian context, intentional communities would typically be thought of as located in rural (or suburban fringe) areas, and are generally larger – both in terms of land size and number of members - than other collaborative housing models.
What is it?
Intentional community can be used as a broad label for many types of communities that have joined together to collectively create the place that they live in, to address perceived shortcomings of mainstream society. They typically have a shared vision and place a strong emphasis on sharing and communal living. Often associated with having a ‘consciously devised and usually well thought-out social and cultural alternative’ to mainstream society. It would typically be associated with ecovillages, eco-communities and communes.
Who is it for?
The size and locations of intentional communities can mean they have more scope to experiment with alternative ways of living, whether it be self-build housing, self-sufficient food farming, off-grid living or other focuses. Ecovillages are the most well-known type of intentional community, and can be particularly attractive for people who want to reduce their ‘ecological footprint’ and live a lower-impact lifestyle. The larger community sizes can also increase the size and scope of projects that the community can accomplish. Larger communities could therefore appeal to people seeking for grander visions of alternative living. On the flip side, the larger community size can mean more members to share the workload of governing the community, and reducing the burden for individual households.
What makes it collaborative?
Intentional communities are generally the most collaborative of the models discussed on this site. Typically, communities will have shared ownership through a cooperative or community title model. Residents will be involved in the planning and design of the overall community, even if dwellings are designed individually, and governance will be by the community using a form of consensus decision making. Given the larger scale, a lot can be shared. Often with a common building with a kitchen large enough to host events for the whole community, as well as community gardens. Examples of sharing in Australian intentional communities can range from meditation halls, schools, cafes and shops, to tractors and lawnmowers.
One of the most interesting intentional communities is the ecovillage of Munksøgård, on the edge of Roskilde in Denmark. The development has been designed to provide for diversity in housing sizes, ownership types and support people of different ages and life stages. It is made up of 100 dwellings, and is home to about 225 people. The community is subdivided into five dwelling groups, each with 20 row houses. Each dwelling group has their own common house for joint activities (common dinners, meetings, parties etc).
The dwelling groups have different types of ownership. One dwelling group is privately owned as single family houses, one is a co-operative association, and the other three are owned by a community housing association and available to rent. The three rented dwelling groups have different resident groups: one is only for young people, one is only for seniors, and one is open to all age groups.