Intentional living

Lauren Kennedy

Photo courtesy of Lauren Kennedy

Local real estate agent Lauren Kennedy doesn’t fit the stereotype many might have of salespeople. Beyond selling property, Kennedy is very involved in helping house individuals and families. She works out of an office in north Chico called the Independent Realty Group, where she focuses on helping create intentional communities, which address “how and where we live and what people need. It’s more than just an economical question, though that is a part of it.” Born and raised in San Jose, Kennedy’s family first began moving north about 30 years ago when her mother, two brothers and a niece pulled up roots. She followed, she said, “because I needed a rest and my brothers needed a babysitter.” She’s moved around over the years, “looking at different models of living,” which included working in Europe on a farm co-op and living at sea on a ship that served as a research vessel “for art and science and exploration that was trying to create experiences for how people could live in space together—what people needed to survive and live well.” Before making her final move, back to Chico for the third time in 2013, she spent time in San Diego in a housing unit co-owned by 10 people, called a “family compound.” Kennedy can be reached at 518-3526.

Is there a market for intentional communities in Chico? Is anyone building them?

There is absolutely a market for them. I did an informal workshop last year providing an introduction to community properties. Interest in community living spaces is growing everywhere. People are responding to financial pressure, the high cost of child care, lack of options of aging and care taking and more and more experiences of general alienation and loneliness. I know of a few small groups working on community projects in Chico, but to be honest, the area where I see it happening the most and where I see the most potential is in affordable housing and transitional housing.

What has kept you here?

The last time I moved back I was only going to stay a couple of weeks, but I’ve ended up staying [much longer]. I enjoy working in the community and have helped with Safe Space [winter shelter]. Once you get to know the people there, the more you understand their conditions.

What do you think of the tiny house village concept?

I love what Charles [Withuhn] has done. He’s really driven a lot of conversation around housing. Anything that’s going to get roofs over people’s heads is good. Tiny houses are not a permanent solution, but is a good start.

Do you have plans for the future?

I am the current executive director at the North Valley Housing Trust. We raise funds to create housing that addresses the needs of our area and helps ensure a thriving community into the future. I guess that doesn’t meet everyone’s definition of “intentional communities,” but I certainly think our work is intentional.