The concept of cohousing neighborhoods has been called a return to the spirit of small towns by some. Many people describe them as akin to the close-knit towns or villages where they grew up, while futurists claim they are the 21st century’s answer to today’s social, economic, and environmental challenges. Each holds part of the truth. Cohousing first appeared in Denmark in the early 1960s and came to North America in 1988. Describes neighborhoods that combine the benefits of sharing resources and living in a community with the autonomy of private dwellings.
Most residents own their own homes, which are grouped around a ‘common house’ with shared amenities. The amenities may include a kitchen and dining area, children’s playroom, workshops, guest rooms, home office support, arts and crafts area, laundry and more. The homes are fully self-sufficient with a full kitchen, but resident-cooked meals are available at the common house for those wishing to participate. Some communities have cooking teams that meet once or twice a month – then residents sit and enjoy the meals they have cooked.
Residents of cohousing communities participate in the planning, design, and ongoing management and maintenance of their communities, meeting frequently to discuss these topics. The design of cohousing neighborhoods is typically environmentally friendly and pedestrian-oriented. Typically, there are between 10-35 households emphasizing a blend of singles, couples, families with children, and elderly individuals.
Over 100 new communities have been planned or are in various stages of development in North America since 1991. About 160 cohousing communities have been completed since 1991. Their levels of social interaction and shared resources vary. The possibilities for cohousing development are limited only by the imagination, desire and resources of the group of people creating the community. Cohousing groups rest on democratic principles and do not espouse any ideologies other than a desire for a more practical and social living environment.
Living in a cohousing community allows people to maintain their own privacy while enjoying the benefits of getting to know their neighbors and interacting with them. We need to live in a way that responds to a world that has dramatically changed in the last fifty years-a world in which family structures have changed, women are playing an increasingly important role in the workplace, resource limitations and environmental concerns are on the rise, and many people feel overburdened. We live in a dissociated society, so cohousing offers hope. In cohousing, we can create a better place to live, a place where we can connect with our neighbours, a place where we can enjoy a rich sense of community and contribute to a more sustainable future.