Townsquare, Munksøgard Cohousing Communities, DEN © Kristopher Stevens, 2018
Cohousing originated in Denmark. The name describes a custom-designed neighbourhood of private homes whose owners cooperatively own and use indoor and outdoor spaces around their homes. Cohousing members manage their communities together, and actively come together to learn, support each other, and enjoy life.
Typically, Cohousing neighbourhoods are clustered around a “common house” with shared amenities designed to provide residents privacy, while maximizing their access to a high functioning community. Each home is self-sufficient with a complete kitchen and other aspects you would expect in a home. Common shared amenities may include a large kitchen and dining room in the common house for weekly community meals, a children’s playroom, workshops, guest rooms, caregiver suites, home office support, an arts and crafts area, exercise facilities, laundry and more. Cohousing neighbourhoods range from 8 – 40 households and most commonly emphasize a multi-generational mix of singles, couples, families with children, and elders though senior (50+) Cohousing communities are rapidly increasing in number.
Where is cohousing happening?
What’s the difference between cohousing and CoLiving?
CoLiving is an umbrella term for different types of intentional communities where residents have varying levels of private space while sharing a significant amount of common amenities and living facilities. On one end of the spectrum where private space is at the minimum, you may just have a bunk bed in a dormitory. An increasingly common scenario is having a private suite in a shared house like in the Golden Girls or like many college and university students have experienced. Other forms of CoLiving have increased privacy and autonomy while still including shared commons such as Cohousing, eco-villages, cooperative houses and other shared living arrangements.
Six Characteristics of Cohousing
The following six basic principles have been used to define what makes cohousing different from other types of collaborative living.
1. Participatory process
Future residents participate in the design of the community so that it meets their needs. Some cohousing communities are initiated or driven by a developer. A well-designed, pedestrian-oriented community without significant resident participation in the planning may be “cohousing-inspired,” but it is not a cohousing community.
2. Neighbourhood design
The physical layout and orientation of the buildings (the site plan) encourage a sense of community and social interactions. For example, the private residences are clustered on the site, leaving more shared open space. The goal: create a strong sense of community using physical design choices.
3. Common facilities
Common facilities that are designed for daily use, are an integral part of the community, and always supplemental to the private residences. Since the buildings are clustered, larger sites may retain several or many acres of undeveloped shared open space. By regularly sharing meals together, neighbours are connected more closely, build stronger social bonds, and are better able to create a more efficient and satisfying lifestyle. Participating in the community is always optional, not required.
4. Resident management
Residents manage their own cohousing communities, and also perform much of the work required to maintain the property. They participate in the preparation of common meals, and meet regularly to solve problems and develop policies for the community.
5. Flat organizational structure and decision-making by consensus
Leadership roles naturally exist in cohousing communities, however no one person (or persons) has authority over others. Most groups start with one or two “burning souls.” As people join the group, each person takes on one or more roles consistent with his or her skills, abilities or interests. Most cohousing groups make all of their decisions by consensus or similar forms of consent decision-making (e.g. sociocracy), and, although many groups have a policy for voting if the group cannot reach consensus after a number of attempts, it is rarely or never necessary to resort to voting.
6. Neighbour support network
There is no shared economy in Cohousing (no paid services/help). However, as might be expected among neighbours who are closely connected, neighbourly support for a more convenient and secure lifestyle is encouraged. This quality is especially significant for senior Cohousing members. The social synergy in Cohousing projects capitalizes on the collective energy, creativity, and diversity of skills, knowledge, and interests among neighbours. Cohousing attracts proactive individuals interested in improving both their own lives and the welfare and sustainability of the greater society.
There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
Why does Cohousing make so much sense?
It’s connected – Values driven intent to maximizes privacy and community for mutual benefit has resulted in communities that are geared towards fulfillment, vitality and life-long learning.
It’s affordable – Pooling resources cuts costs and reduces need for individual investment.
It’s safe – Conscientious design ensures residents have secure communal space to socialize and play in.
It prioritizes proximity – Living close to the people, activities and services most important to us improves our quality of life.
It’s social – A strong sense of community compass loneliness and isolation while improving quality of life.
It’s sustainable – Good location, design and community intent will reduce transportation, energy, water and food waste.
It’s independent – Residents manage their own housing and community needs.
It enables co-care – Mutual support reduces social isolation and promotes positive, active ageing and strong families.
It’s secure – Close-knit communities tend to be safe and healthy.