The first affordable, rental cohous-ing community in Northern California looks as you would expect a cohousing community to look—friendly and sociable.

The buildings, painted in cheery shades of red, yellow, and blue, softened to fall just short of pure primary tones, surround community gardens and a neighborhood center that provides space for group dinners where the garden’s bounty can be cooked and shared by all. The neighborhood center also has a sitting room, playroom for children, and computer room.

Front porches on the traditional-style townhomes overlook the community’s gardens and bring the multifamily structures down to a human scale. Pedestrian paths encourage walking within the 2.3 acre development, but also provide a direct connection by foot to downtown Sebastopol.

To squeeze 45 units onto a small parcel while allowing for the preservation of larger trees and more open space for the community, one multifamily residential building—stretching across what would be the cuff of the sock-shaped site—was stacked three-stories high. Clapboards matching those that clad the townhouses help the larger building blend in.

Sustainability is addressed by solar power, landscaping that includes edible plants, a drainage system that slows and cleans runoff, daylighting, shade features, and energy-conservation measures designed to reduce heating and cooling needs.

The one-, two-, and three-bedroom units are targeted to families who earn between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income. Rents range from $397 to $1,169 a month.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA, San Francisco, CA.