It’s 6:30 p.m. on a balmy evening in Boulder, and Jacqui Faust has her hands full. Two giant pots of polenta bubble on the stove as she shapes a plateful of black bean burgers by hand.

Dinner party? Not quite. Just another Thursday night at Masala Co-op, a labyrinthine house near the University Hill neighborhood, where Faust lives with her boyfriend and 10 others. Masala and its sister co-op, Chrysalis, are a take on the “intentional community” movement, or the concept of “joint effort” when it comes to lifestyle choices. Both partially solar-powered homes are owned by the nonprofit Boulder Housing Coalition (BHC). Masala residents eat five vegetarian dinners a week together, share home and garden chores, and gather weekly to share what’s on their minds—no judgments allowed. “When I say I live in a co-op, my friends imagine this crazy house with hippies,” says Stephen Mannhard, 26, of Masala. “But when they come for dinner, they see how vibrant and warm the community is.”

A handful of similar but informal “conscious communities” operate in local homes, notes BHC executive director Lincoln Miller, but Masala and Chrysalis make up the first officially zoned co-op system in Boulder County. Members estimate they field up to 20 inquiries for every room opening. “The co-op here gives you a sense of home,” says Masala resident Daniel Daenen, 22, “which a lot of people my age can’t find anywhere else in the city.”

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