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What is Cohousing?

Cohousing is the name of a type of collaborative housing that attempts to overcome the alienation of modern subdivisions in which no-one knows their neighbors, and there is no sense of community. It is characterized by private dwellings with their own kitchen, living-dining room etc, but also extensive common facilities. The common building may include a large dining room, kitchen, lounges, meeting rooms, recreation facilities, library, workshops, childcare.


Cohousing communities are usually designed as attached or single-family homes along one or more pedestrian streets or clustered around a courtyard. They range in size from 7 to 67 residences, the majority of them housing 20 to 40 households.  The modern theory of cohousing originated in Denmark in the 1960s among groups of families who were dissatisfied with existing housing and communities that they felt did not meet their needs.


A cohousing community is a type of intentional community composed of private homes supplemented by shared facilities. The community is planned, owned and managed by the residents – who also share activities which may include cooking, dining, child care, gardening, and governance of the community. Common facilities may include a kitchen, dining room, laundry, child care facilities, offices, internet access, guest rooms, and recreational features.

Cohousing facilitates interaction among neighbors for social, practical benefits, economic and environmental benefit.  In describing New York City's first co-housing project, a recent New York Times article said co-housing "speaks to people who want to own an apartment but not feel shut off by it, lost in an impersonal city."


What is cohousing - Slide share: This is a powerpoint used by Chris ScottHanson when he gave a public presentation on Cohousing for the Brooklyn Cohousing group (brooklyncohousing.org) on 10/12/07 - 49:50


What Is Cohousing by Jwilbern on Jan 04, 2011 - 19 slides


Cohousing blog - Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.


Sur la route des utopies




Usually, cohousing communities are designed and managed by the residents, and are intentional neighborhoods: the people are consciously committed to living as a community; the physical design itself encourages that and facilitates social contact. The typical cohousing community has 20 to 30 single family homes along a pedestrian street or clustered around a courtyard. Residents of cohousing communities often have several optional group meals in the common building each week.


This type of housing began in Denmark in the late 1960s, and spread to North America in the late 1980s. There are now more than a hundred cohousing communities completed or in development across the United States.


The Main Characteristics of Cohousing
As delivered by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett at the 3rd North American Cohousing Conference in Seattle, September, 1997


1. Participatory Process.
Resident participate in the planning and design of the development of the community so that it directly responds to their needs. (Developer initiated/driven projects are in no way a threat to this. In most cases, developer initiation may actually make it easier for more people to participate in the process. On the other hand, a well-designed, pedestrian-oriented community with no resident involvement in the planning might be "cohousing inspired", but is not a cohousing community.)


2. Neighborhood Design.
The physical design encourages a sense of community as well as maintaining the option for privacy. (It is harder to define here exactly what constitutes "encouraging a sense of community,"but rather than saying it must be a pedestrian-oriented design with the cars at the periphery, it is more important that residents are involved in the decision making (see above) and the intent must be to create a "strong sense of community" with design as one of the facilitators. (Getting together to afford your private golf club does not do it.)


3. Private homes supplemented by common facilities.
Common facilities are designed for daily use; they are an integral part of the community and typically include a dining area, sitting area, children's play room, guest room, as well as garden and other amenities. Each household owns a private residence ---complete with kitchen--but also shares extensive common facilities with the larger group. (Cohousing is not a shared house. A shared house could be included in a cohousing community but is a different community/housing type.)


4. Resident management.
After move-in.


5. Non-hierarchical structure and decision-making.
There are leadership roles, but not leaders. The community is not dependent on any one person, even though there is often a "burning soul" that gets the community off the ground, and another that pulls together the financing, and another that makes sure you, the group, has babysitters for meetings, and another...If your community has a leader that sets policy or establishes standards unilaterally, it is not cohousing.


6. The community is not a primary income source for residents.
There is no shared community economy (ala Twin Oaks): If the community provides residents with their primary income, this is a significant change to the dynamic between neighbors and defines another level of community beyond the scope of cohousing.

Source: http://www.cohousing.org/overview.aspx



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