Our visit to ElderGrace Friday morning was spontaneous and unplanned. We hadn’t planned to visit this community, because in the intentional communities website, it is listed as forming. However, when we were at Commons, we were told that the community was built and the next morning we called the number on their website. We were greeted by Pam, an energetic and vibrant woman. She happened to pick up the phone while cleaning the Common House and invited us to stop by.
This community is just under a year old and a joint venture with the Community Housing Trust in order to offer affordable housing to the 55 plus population in Sante Fe. The community has sold 25 of the 27 units since it opened in October 2009. More were sold but that was before the recession and people were not able to sell their homes.
Pam shared with us that she had lived in cohousing for over ten years back on the East Coast and said, ” it was very much like living in a dorm.” She showed us her 900 s.f. 1- bedroom unit which felt spacious, light and airy. She was able to qualify for the “affordability” price and get it for 138k instead of the 190k market rate. The medium home sale price in Sante Fe is around $350k so this is a very good deal for elders on fixed incomes.
The demographics at Elder Grace are about 15 single women and 5 couples, substantiating our theory that there would be a higher women ratio. The units were designed for energy efficiency and Pam’s utility bill (both gas and electric) was around $50 a month.
As she toured us around you could see how new the project was with the strappling young trees and not fully formed community garden. The houses were aligned in linear fashion, not the most ideal placements but pragmatic for the site.
We asked her how she felt about the age restriction. She said she missed the energy of children. She was a teacher and is now a grandmother and loves having kids around. In addition to their energy, there is a benefit to having young people to help in some of the community work.
Pam recently joined the National Board of Cohousing and was very intrigued with our research and suggestions. We left giving her big hugs and promising to stay in touch. Later that day we both received a lovely email from her addressed to another Board member introducing her to us. Meeting Pam was truly a touch of grace in action…