The Edge of Intentional

In the spectrum of intentional community, cohousing hangs out on the mainstream edge. We have our own homes. We don’t share income. Most of us have traditional mortgages as a way of accumulating wealth.  Compared with the most interdependent communities out there, most cohousing looks fairly conventional, but I wonder if we are inching along the spectrum away from individualism. I think this would be a good thing, and I’m curious how it will shift our identity over time.

One pull toward more sharing came up a lot at the conference in Portland: affordability.  Cohousing is simply too expensive for many people who want to live in it. There are a variety of ideas for addressing this challenge.  Some of the most innovative involve more sharing. A simple version is to plan for roommates. Some communities are building “double master” designs where each bedroom has an attached bath. Others are thinking of including a building with a handful of private living spaces and a single shared kitchen. I’ve heard these spaces referred to as flats, lofts, or suites.  Designing these kinds of options up front creates opportunity for those who can’t afford a conventional private home.

Necessity isn’t the only reason we may be shifting.  Some would argue that living in a smaller private space is the single most effective option for living a more sustainable life. Not only do smaller homes use less energy to heat and cool, they also hold less stuff, reducing the impact of manufacturing and shipping on our climate.  The resulting reduction in carbon emissions is likely more than can be achieved by adding solar panels or switching to an electric vehicle.

Perhaps the most surprising reason we might add more sharing to cohousing is that we like it.  As we lean in to the benefits of community life, some of us will discover that adding a housemate or sharing a kitchen brings us more of the most precious things in life: casual conversations, shared meals, connection and care.  

Who can say where the future of cohousing will take us and what sorts of living arrangements will be included in communities yet to be built?  What I know for sure is that the desire for community in our lives is growing and demand for more will lead to more and more innovation. As new communities are built, we will see new ideas blending with our current definition of cohousing in exciting ways. This is something to celebrate, even if it might make it harder to decide exactly what does and what does not fit the definition of cohousing.  

Category: Alternatives

Tags: Affordability, coliving, double master, housesharing, intentional, sharing, sustainability

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