What is Cohousing?
Cohousing is a form of collaborative housing designed to overcome the alienation of modern subdivisions. Cohousing is characterized by private dwellings, each with its own kitchen, living-dining room, etc, augmented by extensive common facilities. The common area almost always includes a large dining room, kitchen, a lounge, a kid’s playroom and a laundry. Typically, the common area includes a workshop, a guest room or two, and sometimes a teen room, a crafts room or a library or ‘quiet” room. Since prospective residents actively participate in the design, they determine what they will create in the way of common amenities.
Usually, cohousing communities are designed and managed by the residents, and are intentional neighborhoods: the people are consciously committed to living as a community within a physical design that encourages and facilitates social contact. The typical cohousing community has 20 to 40 residences (town houses, flats and occasionally single family homes) sited along a pedestrian street or clustered around a courtyard. Each week, residents of cohousing communities typically share 2-4 optional group meals—called common meals– in the common house.
This type of housing was first developed in Denmark in the late 1960s, and spread to North America in the late 1980s. There are now about 150 cohousing communities completed or in development across the United States and Canada, and dozens of forming groups.
adapted from the website of the Cohousing Association of the U.S.
I’ve been involved in the world of cohousing since 1992. I’d heard about cohousing from several sources, and saw it as a great way to enjoy a place of my own without being isolated from others, the perfect mix of autonomy and community. During these years, it’s been a wonderful way for me to live.
In 1992, I moved into Doyle Street Cohousing, the second cohousing to be built in North America. In 1995 I became a founding member of Swan’s Market Cohousing,a new cohousing group. We built a community of 20 households in a renovated historic market hall in downtown Oakland and I’ve lived here happily since the spring of 2000.
I served for eight years on the Board of Directors of the Cohousing Association of the United States. In the Community Directory of the Cohousing Association’s website, you’ll find a list of and contact information for all the cohousing communities in the United States. Information about Canadian cohousing can be found here. The Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC) can be found here. (An intrepid traveler, as of mid-2009 I had visited 68 of over 100 established communities in the US, and 4 in British Columbia!). All three sites have a wealth of information for community seekers. FIC is offering some of the best events and online courses.
If you’re the least bit interested in any aspect of cohousing (even if you aren’t interested in living in a cohousing community) I hope you’ll join me in your support of the movement to develop new communities–intentional neighborhoods, planned, designed, built by the future residents, and then managed and maintained by the residents after they’ve moved in. Cohousers (as we call ourselves) are a remarkable group of contemporary pioneers who’ve found an excellent antidote to the isolation inherent in American housing today. You can support the Foundation for Intentional Communities by making a contribution here.