NAHC had a staff field trip today to Greenbelt Homes Inc., a very cool housing co-op in the outer suburbs of DC. I’d almost be willing to live there, even given my great antipathy toward the suburbs. The co-op consists of 1600 units spread over many acres of lawns and parks and surrounded by forest. It was started as part of FDR’s New Deal public housing, and was later purchased by the residents and became a cooperative. In the middle is a town center with a cooperative grocery, cafe, and movie theater, as well as some other (uncooperative) businesses, a municipal aquatic center, community center, and public library. It was designed to be walkable and safe for kids.

Of course, it still has a lot of the drawbacks of the outer suburbs. You’re a bit isolated without a car, though there is a bus to the Metro. It’s easy to keep out the “undesirable element”, but that results in a homogeneous community and just displaces the undesirables someplace else.

All in all, though, it renewed my enthusiasm about the possibilities of cooperatives. After hearing about troubled co-ops for a week, it was refreshing to see a co-op running smoothly and serving its members so well.