Opinion | Cohousing is the future

Prairie Hill points us toward a future that is not only environmentally friendly, but also encourages a healthy social life.


Roman Slabach

Currier Hall as seen from the UIHC Aircare helicoptor on March 20, 2019 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Chris Klepach, Opinions Columnist

Imagine walking down your street and being greeted by your closest friends.

Living in Prairie Hill, a co-housing community in Iowa City, is not far from this dream. This co-housing community can point toward a solution for the isolation many Iowans have felt while developing a sustainable lifestyle.

Dorm life has its benefits, but the concept of co-housing communities offers an eco-friendly and supportive lifestyle that Iowans should embrace.

Prairie Hill, which sits at 140 Prarie Hill Lane, is in walking and biking distance of restaurants and a few blocks south from west-side student living. Move-ins started in 2018 and the community has flourished ever since.

It is a multigenerational community home to 37 residencies.

Every co-housing residency includes a common house. Prairie Hill’s common house is where residents can gather for meetings, cook and bake in the kitchen, and engage in recreational activities at the activity room. It also includes two guest rooms, a laundry room, and mailboxes.

As a community, Prairie Hill is dedicated to an eco-friendly lifestyle that encourages members to adopt small spaces of land at the garden. Homes incorporate solar panels and efficiently designed infrastructure to minimize resource waste. In turn, residents see lower utility payments than normal housing arrangements.

Del Holland and Barbara Bailey, members of Prairie Hill’s Board of Managers, said Prarie Hill gives their members a strong sense of community.

“When you walk out the door to go get your mail, or to get to your car, or your bicycle, you almost always run into your neighbors doing a similar thing,” Holland said. “Then you end up talking about whatever — the weather, the politics. And that’s something I didn’t have in the neighborhoods I lived in Iowa City before.”

Bailey said Prairie Hill residents create opportunities to get together.

“There’s a lot of reciprocity when people do things for each other, and we learn about the things that need doing by getting together and talking to each other,” Bailey said.

Co-housing is a promising light in a city where, frankly, living space can be expensive, isolating, and unfriendly to residents. As we move further from the mental and social blockages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to look toward housing models like Prairie Hill that encourage strong communities.

As one of the few seniors who still live in the University of Iowa dorms, I can attest that there is a good community that can come from the dorm experience. But some students may find difficulty in getting to know their dorm neighbors.

Prairie Hill is designed to foster interactions with neighbors. The idea of gathering at the common house to chit-chat about life has an allure unlike any other living situation.

Co-housing communities offer an ecologically balanced way of living that comes with the added benefits of having a good friend live close to you — a living arrangement I relish.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.