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'Dream come true': First cohousing community in the Inland Northwest welcomes new members

Haystack Heights Cohousing is home to about 80 community members in East Central Spokane.

SPOKANE, Wash. — As the Spokane housing market becomes one of the most competitive in the nation, a new housing model is opening up in the city. This neighborhood is unlike any other in the region.

Tucked away in the East Central neighborhood, close to the Perry District, sits about 3 acres of brand new homes. The first cohousing community in Spokane County, and the Inland Northwest, is getting close to welcoming about 80 members. Haystack Heights Cohousing is a community of private homes clustered around shared space.

"I'm from Spokane and I want my hometown to have nice things," Cofounder and member Mariah McKay said. and I'm willing to work with my many amazing friends to make those nice things possible.

McKay grew up in a large extended family that did business together in the carnival industry. She reminisced on eating big meals together, always being close to your loved ones and having someone to always talk to. 

"Living as part of a group has always been normal, and the way it makes most sense to live life," she added.

Construction started in May 2020, but this idea was first proposed half a decade ago. McKay helped develop the 39 households for intergenerational living, with five members moving in just this month.  

"I'm hoping in cohousing to kind of recreate that atmosphere where the neighbor kids feel more like cousins or family," she added. "I just can't imagine living any other way, so it's a real dream come true."

Families will be able to have their privacy in their individual homes and build relationships in their community through several different shared spaces among residents.

Their goal is to create a community that works together on things such as meal preparation, yard work, child care and more. In between the garden and the homes is a common house. The common house has a living room with activities like pool, a playroom for kids, a kitchen that accommodates three different chefs, a soapstone fireplace, a food processing pantry, two guest bedrooms and laundry machines. 

"Viewers might be used to coffee shops, or a church sanctuary or perhaps a community center," she said. "The Haystack Heights common house is a unique kind of third space that's privately owned but welcomes the community in."

Other amenities will include a small out building for quiet reflection, a music room, a teen hangout space, a woodshop, a hot tub and much more.

This community is incredibly unique, it is the only traditionally designed and developed cohousing community in the Inland Northwest, McKay said. She hopes her development will encourage more people to create neighborhoods like this one, she added.

"We have a lot of room for housing innovation in Spokane and cohousing is by no means the one answer or the panacea," she said. "Hopefully, it shows people that more than what we're currently familiar with is possible."

 About 30% of the homeowners are moving from outside the region, even across the country, for the community. Another 30% percent is from the region and the rest are from the immediate vicinity. Each of the homes are bought by members, but those members will be able to rent out rooms. 

"The only criteria is that they would need to be able to buy a home in the community, should one become available," she said. "Most people, sadly in this day and age, in this income inequality society, can't buy a home."

Spokane's real estate market is nothing like local realtors have seen before, with brokerage Redfin ranking it as having the most bidding wars in the country in the month of May. According to Redfin, 86.7% of listings that its agents placed bids on faced competition. That ranked Spokane the highest out of 50 metropolitan areas that qualified.

As demand for housing shoots up, real estate prices increase.

"To be very honest, for me, Haystack Heights is bittersweet because while I look forward to starting a family in this special environment, I know there's a lot of families out there that aren't able to hold together the resources or don't have access to the kinds of relationships that have made this community possible," McKay said. "I'm hoping that haystack heights can help inspire other leaders in the community to build more cooperative housing styles."

In order to make this community successful, everyone living in or committed to Haystack Heights is working to get to know each other and learn proper communication techniques, she said. The goal is to make a smooth transition to community living.

It's been effectively sold out for more than one year, but new openings are periodically announced on their website. If people are interested, the team offers the public to get involved as "associate members." 

"Our community doesn't stop at the property line," she said. "We have strong relationships with many of our neighbors, and look forward to inviting friends and family into the neighborhood. Cohousing has really kind of become a center, wherever they're located, and help bring people together — not just the people who live in them."

For more information on Haystack Heights, cohousing in Spokane and how to become an associate member, you can reach out to McKay through the Spokane Cohousing website or their Facebook page.

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