The Commons- Santa Fe


The Commons on the Alameda was first launched in l989 and is one of the oldest cohousing communities in the United States. After planning and construction, folks started moving in in l993, and the community still thrives today. With 28 households and about 75 residents, The Commons is intergenerational and has a full range of families, singles, and working people ages 96 to 7.

The land and homes are exceptionally attractive, with individually designed, adobe-style homes, curving brick pathways, and a central plaza complete with a fountain and graceful cottonwood trees. Small gardens dot the land and nearly every unit has a covered parking spot for the winter snows.


But cohousing is a lot more than beautiful homes and landscapes. It’s about people living in community, sharing and helping and connecting.

“We’re seen to one of the best cohousing communities ,” says Ellen Kemper, a founding resident who seems to have her finger on the pulse. “We truly love and respect each other here- it runs deep.”   The community has an active meals program and monthly work parties. Many have attended communication trainings and have actively worked to promote collaboration and peaceful conflict resolution.

Owners are required to offer a minimum of 8 hours of service per month to the community. If they come up short after 6 months, they are charged $10 per hour to help make cover the labor shortage. There is a safety net of surplus hours for those who have had personal crises which got in their way. Twice Weekly meals have been sustained from the beginning, with every resident expected to work one kitchen shift per month . Meals are served family style, supporting conversation and relaxed relationships.

Although condo prices are high compared to many other co-housing communities because of the Santa Fe market, the desirable city location, and the happenstances of the US economy when homes were built, the community was designed to include lower-income residents. Larger households sometimes include rent-paying housemates, and 11 “casitas” attached to homes are mostly occupied by renters as well.

Ellen describes The Commons as a “mature” community. “We went through growing pains,” she says. But over time many of the initial conflicts were resolved. Time limits were placed on meetings, and people learned how to gain broad support for initiatives before proposing changes.


Residents care for each other. When a single mother with an 8 year old child was badly hurt in an accident, everyone came to help with meals, transportation, and support. “You can count on people,” Ellen says. During the last decade, the community had 20 children under 5 years of age. “We love having kids around,” says Ellen.

From the outside, it does look like a giant extended family. Each month birthdays are celebrated with cake. People gathered recently for dinner and laughed and smiled as a young celebrant played “Two truths and a Lie”.  Everyone I met seemed happy. Ellen smiled at me.  “We live in gratitude,” she said.


3 thoughts on “The Commons- Santa Fe

  1. Wow! Like heaven. Are you able and interested in also keeping up our one-on-one friendship viaemail and/or phone during your voyage?Thinks have been emotional here as Ursala and I try to unlock from some mother-daughtertransference. Which is actually some co-dependency on my part. We had a mediator forUrsala, Kristin, and I to help us set up some ground rules. And, that helped. So, after a month of intense work, you will see that we are launching the new website Vicki Lind & Associates with all three of us on the home page.My journey with Whitney Otto has been interesting. I read the same chapter I read to you and Molly when I was in the settlement house on the South Side of Chicago. Their feedback was the same as yours–the reader could not feel the fear and reactions that I was having. They want me to push it more. Most of the feedback on the comments was negative and it was right after the mediation. But, the next day, Whitney wrote a longer piece about the strengths and that the area that I need to work on is not as hard as voice or dialogue or detail that I did well. And, a shorter piece I wrote in response to a prompt (Write about something you wanted to have given away but did not). It got lots of laughs and I like having a comic voice some times. I’ve attached it.I keep wondering if you are lonely or if new people fill up the need for stimulation and contact.I am thinking of getting a cat that is as much like Yogi as possible.I am going to my cabin in the woods. The long-term (30 year) residents are moving away and we need to decide if we want to sell or what. It has still been lovely so I am glad to be in the woods again after so much intensity this week.Love, V


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s