Glossary of Cohousing Terms

Affordable housing: As with any kind of housing development, affordability will vary considerably based on location, design, site requirements, common amenities, and availability of public or private subsidies. Many cohousing communities actively seek ways to make more of their units affordable. Some states or municipalities require developers of multi-family housing, including cohousing developments, to have a percentage of units meet a standard for “affordability.”

Coho/US: Coho/US is a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the benefits of cohousing and supporting the development of cohousing communities nationwide. We serve as a connector and clearinghouse to grow and nurture cohousing. Visit About for more information.

Cohousing professionals: Businesses and/or individuals who primarily serve cohousing groups. These professionals include developers, architects and other consultants that provide specialized services for cohousing communities, including marketing, media relations and group process. Visit our Professional Directory.

Common facilities: Facilities designed, managed and shared by a cohousing community (supplemental to private residences). Shared facilities typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry, and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, open space, and gardens. Since homes are typically clustered, larger sites may retain many acres of undeveloped shared open space.

Common house: A shared facility, often but not always a stand-alone building, that is owned and managed by the community. It typically includes a kitchen, dining area/great room, sitting area, children’s playroom and laundry, and also may contain a workshop, library, exercise room, crafts room and guest room(s).

Common meals: Cohousing residents often share regularly scheduled meals in a common house, including meals prepared by community members, and pot luck meals. Each community determines what works best.

Community liaison: Serves as the contact person to keep Coho/US abreast of new developments within his or her cohousing community, and conveys information and support to the community from the Association. 

Consensus: A decision-making process in which an agreement is made by all members of a group, rather than by a majority or a select group of representatives. Essential elements include a degree of trust among members, a common purpose, time to understand the question carefully, a belief that each person has the right to be heard, and attention to the process used for arriving at decisions. A consensus decision represents a reasonable decision that all members of the group can accept though it might not be the optimal decision for every individual every time.

Eco Cohousing: A type of cohousing that can be formed through the retrofit or built from scratch processes of standard cohousing but has an emphasis of creating sustainable characteristics usually involving the growing of food and the low use of water and energy.

Group process: Refers to the behavior, communication or decision-making process of people in groups. Examples in cohousing might be, say, the way a site search committee goes about developing a list of criteria for suitable land, or how the community acting as a whole responds to a proposed action or policy. A trained facilitator can help a group toward accomplishing its goal by assessing how the group functions and the way individuals interact with each other in decision-making settings.

Intentional community: A planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork, with shared responsibilities and resources. In addition to cohousing, intentional communities include collective households, ecovillages, communes, ashrams, and housing cooperatives. While “intentional communities” frequently connotes a shared religious, political, environmental or social ideology, cohousing focuses on a strong sense of community with neighbors.

Repurpose Cohousing: A type of cohousing in which members buy and transform an existing building or neighborhood, remodel it and then, rebuild it all at once. Repurpose cohousing has the potential to be ecologically sound and provide opportunities to live in the dense parts of existing cities.

Resident management or self management: Residents manage their cohousing community and may perform much of the work to maintain the property. Resident management allows groups to keep their maintenance fees low while making the community a satisfying a place to live and enhancing personal relationships through working together.

Retrofit cohousing: A type of cohousing in which neighbors transform an existing neighborhood over time rather than building from the ground up and all at once. Retrofit cohousing has the potential to be more cost effective than developing a brand-new community and can allow for more opportunities for rental housing in the community .

Right of first refusal: Some cohousing communities have a policy that the seller of a cohousing unit must offer his or her home for purchase to the community or to an individual or individuals within the community before putting it on the open market.

Senior Cohousing: A type of cohousing that is similar to standard cohousing except that it is designed by and for seniors who would prefer to live without the excitement of young families and with designs that assist them living independently for as long as possible.

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