Cohousing started in Denmark in the early seventies when dual income professionals were searching for better daycare and a safer neighborhood. It has matured into a intergenerational mix of family types, attractive to young families, single parents, as well as retired couples and singles.
Cohousing is a synthesis of several of the best features of multifamily housing, limited in size to a range of 12 to 40 units. It is designed and often developed by the residents who will live there, centered around the concept of balancing community and privacy in an old fashioned village.
Nearly 200 projects have been completed in Denmark since the first was finished in 1972. More than 20 have been built in North America since 1991, and more than 150 groups are meeting regularly trying to make their projects happen.
Common Characteristics of Cohousing
Cohousing developments vary in size, location, type of ownership, design, and priorities. The common characteristics are:
• Participatory Process – Future residents participate in the planning and design of their community. They are responsible as a group for most of the final design decisions.
• Intentional Neighborhood Design – The physical design encourages a strong sense of community. With central pedestrian walkways or village greens, cars are generally relegated to the edge of the project, and sometimes to underground parking structures.
• Private Homes & Common Facilities – Communities are generally designed to include significant common facilities, however, all residents also own their own private homes – with kitchens. As an integral part of the community, common areas are designed for daily use, to supplement private living areas.
• Resident Management – Unlike a typical condominium homeowner’s association, residents in cohousing usually manage their own community after move in, making decisions of common concern at regular community meetings.
• Nonhierarchical Structure and Decision Making – They say, “there are leadership roles, but not leaders in cohousing.” Decisions are made together, as a community, often using decision making models such as consensus, or sociocracy.
• Cohousing is NOT – There is no shared income in cohousing. Employment and business endeavors are privately organized. Common ideologies and charismatic leaders are generally not a part of cohousing. And of course, cohousing is not like a commune.