Cohousing - is it for You

by : Gary Ashton

Along with the move toward smaller housing for smaller (often single parent) families is also coming a move for cohousing communities. It seems nostalgia is returning to the realty market place and some of us are missing the Independence Day Block parties and casual 'pop-ins' to the neighbors.

Both USA and Canada have latched onto the Scandinavian idea, and in America there are over 100 communities already in existence. There are more than 100 others in the planning stages, so what is the attraction of these communities?

Since they were introduced in the 1960s, they have gone from a gradual acceptance to a rapidly increasing concern. The fact that they emphasize sustainable living may be one reason, there is also increasing danger in our neighborhoods, yet these reasons alone do not seem to explain their popularity.

Not anyone can sponsor a cohousing community; there are requirements to be met. According to the Cohousing Association of America their six redeeming features are defined like this:

A key factor in cohousing is that the residents have had reasonable input into the design and details of how their community should look and how it should be run.

The design of the complex necessarily emphasizes a sense of community. To this end homes are closer together and may be built facing each other across a courtyard. As yards are smaller, shared spaces are larger.

Each cohousing community has a common house and sometimes all the houses face onto this. The common house has many facilities to bring together a community that wants to spend time together.

For instance there could be a kitchen, exercise room, workshop, sitting and/or eating area, garden areas and children's areas - in fact any type of area that the group agrees they would like.

These complexes are often built by a developer who organizes meetings with the future residents before construction starts. Any late-comers will have less input into the design for this reason. However, often groups do look for interested parties when they have vacancies, and your local real estate agent can advise you here.

The management of the property is drawn from the residents, although most decisions are made by consensus. Upkeep and repairs of the complex are performed by work parties from the inhabitants.

Often these kinds of work parties are organized with meals in the common kitchen and represent work and fun for all. The division of labor is often decided according to a person's skills and/or wishes.

Money is not a community asset. Work is done by all and is considered to be an accepted part of co-housing life. Large expensive repairs that need paid expertise are discussed and decided upon if they arise.

These communities were originally founded in Denmark, and although the first ones were only formed as recently as the 1960s, their popularity has continued to grow, world-wide, ever since.