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These innovations arise for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes a shortage of land or funds makes a conventional approach to cohousing impossible. Sometimes people are happy living in the community where they are and choose to band with neighbors to convert their existing homes to cohousing. Below are a few approaches that have come our way. We trust that as knowledge of cohousing grows creativity will expand and more and more methods for achieving community will arrive.
Consider a standard subdivision block of 6-10 homes with adjacent back yards. If a couple of those homes decide to take down their fences and join back yards, you have the beginning of cohousing. Over time, more houses join. Perhaps each one adds a shared feature so that one is a playground, another a community garden and so on. When an adjacent house comes up for sale, the existing community neighbors band together to purchase it for a common house. Perhaps apartments are built over garages or bedrooms are converted to “mother-in-law suites” to add more neighbors. Common meals and shared property make this a cohousing community.
In a small condo building, a couple of neighbors start having meals together. They invite other neighbors to join them. Some do, some don’t. They share the idea with friends and the broader community, creating a list of prospective cohousing members. When their condo neighbors are ready to sell, they match cohousing buyers with the homes available, saving the seller the hassle and cost of a traditional real estate listing, and gaining another cohousing member. Over years the community converts all the units and bands together to build a common house for the now much larger common meals.
A trailer park can be converted to low-cost cohousing. The central road is replaced by a circular drive around the outside. Add a common house and all the benefits of cohousing can be had at a fraction of the cost of traditional housing development.
There is growing interest in developer-led cohousing On this model cohousing would be build much like a conventional subdivision with a developer managing most of the design and construction effort while the community members worked on building relationships and creating the connections that make cohousing community.