Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Households have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbors collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces.
Although this style of neighborhood has existed for more than 40 years, it’s still relatively unknown around these parts. Cohousing originated in Denmark in the late 1960s when some dual-income families sought better child care and meal-making efficiency. Charles Durrett, with Kathryn McCamant, introduced the concept of cohousing to the United States with the seminal book Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves.
Six characteristics of cohousing:
- participatory process
- layout and activities that facilitate interaction (especially meals together)
- complete resident self-management
- common facilities
- non-hierarchical structure
- separate income sources
What makes cohousing unique?
Owning a home in a cohousing community is similar to living a condominium, but here are some of the elements that make it different:
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Learn more about cohousing
Cohousing Association of the United States
If you’re interested in learning more about cohousing, we recommend you explore the web site of the Cohousing Association of the United States. It’s an excellent collection of resources on the history of the movement, what it’s like to live in a cohousing community, financing the project, the decision-making process, and more.
Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities
Architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, the couple credited with starting the cohousing movement in this country, have written Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities. Now in its second edition, this illustrated manual combines nuts-and-bolts practical considerations and design ideas with extensive case studies of dozens of diverse communities in Europe and North America. The Iowa City Public Library has a copy of this book as well as several others on the subject.
Building Community with Cohousing was produced by the Canadian Cohousing Network. It’s an entertaining, informative, and inspiring look the cohousing movement in Canada. In it filmmakers Dan Gagnon and Regan Payne interview cohousing residents from three completed communities in southwestern British Columbia Canada: Windsong, Cranberry Commons, and Roberts Creek.
What’s cohousing like? Find out in this video made by kids living in cohousing.
What is a home? This deceptively simple three-minute video done by Turtlebox Productions of the Belterra Community presents the basic concepts of cohousing in a nutshell.