Cohousing is a type of intentional, collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their neighborhoods. Cohousing provides the privacy we are accustomed to within the community we seek.
Cohousing residents consciously commit to living as a community. The neighborhood’s physical design encourages both individual space and social contact. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground, and a common house.
An old-fashioned sense of community
Cohousing communities are usually designed as attached or single-family homes along one or more pedestrian streets or clustered around a central courtyard. Communities range in size from 7 to 67 units, the majority of them housing 20 to 40 households. Because neighbors commit to a relationship with one another, most cohousing communities use consensus as the basis for group decision-making.
The common house is the social center of a cohousing community. Most common houses include a large dining room and kitchen, lounge, recreational facilities, children’s spaces, and frequently, a guest room, workshop, and laundry room. The common house is a great place for dining, celebrations, and entertainment. Communities may also serve optional group meals in the common house several times a week. Regardless of the size of the community, there are many opportunities for casual meetings between neighbors, as well as for deliberate gatherings such as traditions, clubs, and business meetings.
Community members work together to care for the common property building a sense of cooperation, trust, and support.
The cohousing idea originated in Denmark, and was promoted in the U.S. by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett in the early 1980s. The Danish concept of “living community” has spread quickly. There are now hundreds of cohousing communities worldwide, expanding from Denmark into the U.S., Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, and elsewhere.
In a cohousing community, you know who lives six houses down because you eat common meals together, decide how to allocate homeowners dues together, and gratefully accept a ride from them when your car is in the shop. You trust them enough to leave your 4-year-old with them. You listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with them, and you sense that you, too, are heard. Cohousing strives to create a village of all ages where neighbors know and support each other.
Cohousing residents generally aspire to “improve the world, one neighborhood at a time.” Cohousing communities are places where people work together to enrich their lives and improve their surroundings.
Why folks choose Cohousing
Cohousing provides solutions for many of contemporary society’s challenges:
- Creating Community: Humans thrive when in close physical and emotional proximity to others; when it comes to quality of life and good health, relationships are paramount.
- Building Sustainability: Energy costs are reduced with cohousing’s environmentally friendly structures, shared resources, and sustainable approach.
- Enhancing Life: Sharing challenges – from preparing food, to ensuring children and elders are cared for, to meeting the demands of household chores – yields a more secure and relaxed life. Sharing delights – of conversation, meals, and milestones – yields a more enjoyable life.