Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Cooperative Housing for Unitarians: Maybe Not for Reality TV

My last afternoon in Boston I too the T south to visit two friends and their new baby and his big brother.  They drove me back in and took me along to a fundraising dinner on Beacon Hill–but not one of those fancy ones.

This was held in a big old house–the Beacon Hill Friends House–a co-op for 21 people.  Residents have individual or double rooms, access to large common rooms with old stuffed furniture, and  they share chores, take turns preparing five common dinners a week, and govern themselves by Quaker Meeting principles.  Room and board (wholesome and home-made board at that) runs $700-$900 a month–affordable housing for anywhere in Boston and a steal for Beacon Hill.

The Friends House has  been in operation over 50 years–and there are other co-op homes with similar longevity.  The usual residency is two years, though folks can request to stay an additional third and fourth year.  The Quakers do not dine together on Fridays, which enabled them to host this dinner for an up-and-coming UU counterpart community.

A small group of smart, cheerful young adult Unitarian Universalists (most of them life-long UUs) has become a planning team to establish the Lucy Stone Co-Op, which they envision to be a co-housing community for 10-20 people based on and governed by Unitarian Universalist values and principles.  They plan to find real estate in the nearby town of Jamaica Plain, southwest of the city.

They’ve gained inspiration from many sources, including individual UUs, residents of other co-ops and Boston Community Cooperatives, an umbrella organization.  In particular, a Jewish co-op has become a center of progressive action and Jewish religious practice that welcomes hundreds of non-resident members and volunteers every year. While most folks currently enthusiastic about this house are young adults, the planning teams hopes for a multi-generational household that crosses lines of class and ethnicity.

Lucy Stone was a Quakerish Unitarian Congregationalist active in women’s suffrage and slavery-abolition movements, and the first woman known to have kept her last name after marriage.

Amid the testimonials by team members and committed donors over dessert, one person made the point that many faith traditions–especially Roman Catholicism–offer their people may opportunities to deepen their faith or their commitment to it:  spiritual retreats, conference centers, worker houses, volunteer missions, lay theological education, etc.  For UUs, however, the options for deepening one’s faith and commitment usually are 1) go to seminary or 2) join  a committee.  (Or go on retreat at a monastery or Catholic meditation center!)

Hence, the planning team hopes the Lucy Stone Co-Op will be a center of liberal religious activism and service, including in community members many more folks than the residence itself would hold.

To finance the purchase they will seek loans from individuals (in $5,000 increments) and UU congregational endowments (in $25,0000 increments), which will pay low interest–but better than CDs and savings accounts pay right now.  With enough donations and investments from supporters, they might be able to finance the place without borrowing from a bank. Target for housing acquisition is 6-9 months.  Once it’s paid off the property will be held by the not-for-profit corporation.

They just got word of a grant for publicity and technical assistance from the Fund for Unitarian Universalism.  They are raising funds to help with closing costs and as much of a down payment.  And they just got a big check from me.   Read more at

1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

jealous that you got time with that cool family…

Comment by Ms. M.

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

%d bloggers like this: