Photo by Evan Johnson.

Do fences really make good neighbors?

Try telling that to the 17 families who tore down their backyard fences and now eat meals together four times a week, share costs on everything from garden tools to giant trampolines, and in doing so, have created a safe and supportive community for themselves and their children in Davis, California.

Unlike “traditional” cohousing projects, N Street Cohousing began in an existing community with just two houses. New houses are added to the project one at a time, and no license or zoning law changes are required. Families are required to support the common property and work together to fund new projects. Several years ago, they successfully completed a two-story community house for common meals and concerts for the wider community.

View photos of N Street here.

We talk a lot on this blog about the benefits of people coming together, and this is an amazing example. You don’t need a lot of capital or political power to team up with your neighbors to build something together and share things that benefit the group. No single family at N Street would be able to afford to build a concert hall, but what they built together they profit from together.

This is what it looks like when we change the frame to New Mutualism.

It only takes two people to come together. Take the time to ask yourself if your neighbors are craving the same kind of community support you are, and approach them! It doesn’t have to be something very official in the beginning. Share the lawn mower. Set up regular dinners at each others’ houses. Then ask more people to join. I’ll bet you’ll feel more connected to your community, save money, find new friendships, and develop a safer community for your kids.