Cohousing: What Is It, And What Is Its Appeal?
Morgan McBrideSeptember 13, 2018
What Is Cohousing?
Cohousing is a small intentional 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 to one another when needed. In nearly every cohousing community, the management is handled democratically by residents who live on the property.
A Brief History
Cohousing as we currently know it began in Denmark in the 1960s. These communities were designed with the explicit intention of creating villages to aid in the raising of all of the community children. Denmark now has many cohousing communities, with the average individual home growing smaller and the shared areas and amenities growing larger.
Cohousing has grown in popularity in the United States with places like McCamant & Durrett’s “Muir Commons.” They advertise “modern village living” and offer books, workshops, and full-scale architecture services designing functional cohousing communities. Their communities feature extensive amenities and common areas, which have made them very popular with residents.
Cohousing By Location
Most cohousing communities have 15 – 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.
Cohousing 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.
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.
Some cohousing communities share their land with businesses and public spaces. A mixed-use development could include an office suite, a park, and a shopping mall in addition to the residential area. The idea is that someone can live, work, play and shop in one place.
Cohousing can be a great solution for senior citizens who are concerned about losing a sense of community after retiring. It can be hard for people to go from going to work every day to staying home or having adult children move away. Housebound seniors also might begin to feel isolated if living alone. Senior cohousing allows for community social connections while still maintaining the privacy of living independently.
Senior cohousing communities are typically limited to residents over a certain age, such as 55. This encourages a community of residents with similar interests, hobbies and needs.
Cost of Cohousing
The legal structure for a cohousing community is typically a homeowners association or housing cooperative. This is 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 within a larger community.
On the surface, the cost of cohousing may seem the same or even higher than traditional housing. However, splitting the price of groceries, childcare, and household expenses with other members of your community 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.
Benefits of Cohousing
There are many perks to living in a cohousing community. Here are a few of the biggest factors encouraging people to choose this lifestyle.
One of the most obvious benefits of cohousing is the cost savings. By sharing land and living spaces, residents are able to get more affordable housing compared to living independently and having to own everything they need. This cost savings can be particularly attractive to young professionals looking to start their career without breaking the bank on rent. Cohousing isn’t that different from living in a dorm room, making it an easy transition for recent college graduates.
Luxury amenities like laundry and maid services, gourmet kitchens, and fitness areas are often included in more urban cohousing communities. This could be a big selling feature of living in a cohousing setup. Busy professionals might find it especially appealing not only to not have to worry about upkeep and maintenance but to also not even have to worry about coordinating or separately paying for these services that they are likely to have anyways.
Sense of Community
The biggest attraction of a cohouse living will be the sense of community. These living situations are designed to be a built-in network of support and camaraderie. This could be especially attractive to someone moving to town for the first time or people who work long hours and don’t have time to go out and meet new people.
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:
Founded as a startup in 2015, Common 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 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 6-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.
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 locations 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.