If you’re unfamiliar with cohousing, the term may call to mind some backwater commune off the grid where residents share sleeping quarters and gather for singalongs. It’s true that cohousing is designed to encourage sharing and socializing, but the similarities with communes pretty much end there. Check out what cohousing is really all about and why it’s on the rise, especially in big cities.
What Is Cohousing?
Cohousing is a small community of private homes clustered around a shared space, which usually includes a large kitchen, dining area and recreational areas. Neighbors typically get together to maintain their shared space, plan community activities, eat meals and lend a helping hand when needed. In nearly every cohousing community, the management is handled democratically by residents who live on the property.
Cohousing by Location
Most communities have 15 to 35 individual homes, but there’s a wide variety of living arrangements depending on where a community is situated and who it’s intended for.
Urban – Communities in cities are typically made up of condo complexes, townhouses or low-rise apartments. Many of these communities are geared toward young professionals, with rentable units available on shorter term leases for flexibility. Luxury amenities are often included, like laundry and maid service, gourmet kitchens and fitness areas.
Rural – With more room to spread out, rural cohousing communities often feature single-family houses and can span several acres. Much of the time, homes will be clustered tightly together so that the rest of the land can be used for farming or recreation.
Mixed-Use – Some communities share their land with businesses and public spaces. A mixed-use development could include an office suite, park, shopping mall and residential area. The idea is that someone can live, work, play and shop in one place.
Cost of Cohousing
The legal structure for a cohousing community is typically a homeowner’s association or housing cooperative. Not to be confused with communal living – which involves a group of families joining together to buy a plot of land – cohousing lets you buy or lease your own private home.
On the surface, the cost of cohousing may seem the same or even higher than traditional housing. However, splitting cooking, childcare and household expenses can save a lot of time and money. On top of that, many cohousing companies offer more amenities than you’d get for other homes at the same cost.
Over the last few years, several startup companies have launched communities in urban settings. Despite a wide range of living arrangements, the key selling points are often similar: affordability, flexibility and modern comforts. Most of these companies have tried to dodge the complications of building from the ground up and have instead partnered with established developers. Here are a few of the fast risers:
Common – Founded in 2015, the startup has residences in Brooklyn, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The company often renovates historic buildings to create “private rooms within beautiful shared suites.” Communities host between nine and 131 individuals and offer a wide range of luxury amenities. Leases range from 6-12 months and, according to their site, Common members save $500 a month over traditional studio apartments.
HubHaus – HubHaus began in 2016, seeking to solve the challenges of co-living management. The company rents out large houses and subleases the rooms to renters starting with a six-month lease. Featuring over 70 properties throughout California, HubHaus provides furniture for the common areas and outfitted kitchens. Renters can apply to rent rooms online and are matched with one another to create like-minded communities.
Roam – Described as a “co-living and coworking community testing the boundaries between work, travel and life adventure,” Roam offers cohousing communities around the world. With locations in San Francisco, New York, Miami, London, Tokyo and Bali, their model caters to travelers and professionals who work remotely. Renters can lease private, furnished bedrooms for $500 a week or $1,800 a month. Throughout the time of their lease, Roam residents can move freely between locations, staying as long as they like in each one.
Could Cohousing Be Right for You?
There are over 165 cohousing communities in the United States with another 140 in the planning stages, according to the Cohousing Association of the United States. Check out their online directory to learn more about specific communities across the country. If you’re looking to travel, relocate for a new job or just want to have your own space while feeling the support of a tight-knit group, you might feel at home in a cohousing community.