What is Cohousing?


Another form of "shared housing" that is becoming somewhat more popular in this country in recent years is known as co-housing. This is a form of home ownership, in which the homeowner owns not only a somewhat traditional freestanding home but also a portion of a "common area," usually consisting of a relatively large common house along with access to some additional shared property. The first cohousing operation was established in Denmark in 1972; this housing trend has become more popular in this part of the world but examples are showing up elsewhere as well. It seems to be catching on more quickly in the European countries but there are quite a few examples in the US also.

As of April, 2017, the website cohousing.org states that there are 165 established cohousing communities in the United States. The site includes a directory by state; 35 or 36 states, including the District of Columbia, are listed. In terms of the overall percentage of the population, it is a pretty miniscule percentage by far living in one of these communities. But the numbers are apparently growing, and many of the testimonials from those who have lived in one of these communities, either in this country or in other parts of the world, indicate a strong and maybe even passionate belief in what they are doing. I have only recently become aware of this housing option myself and I already find it personally very interesting and worthy of my own consideration.

The benefits expected from cohousing as opposed to more conventional kinds of homeownership appear to be similar to those suggested by the co-living operations: some financial advantage, especially with regard to large purchases, significant kinds of equipment or tools requiring a large investment which can now be spread over several households. Additional financial advantages can come from the readily available help, at least in some cases, with things like child care-the larger community is capable of functioning somewhat as an "extended family" although I suspect it's important not to go overboard in taking advantage of this. My point here is it sounds as if the financial advantages are somewhat uncertain compared to traditional housing choices, although apparently they do in fact exist.

My impression is that even though financial advantages do exist, they do not appear to be the primary reason for people choosing to become involved with this type housing. (This is the kind of thing I expect to confirm or at least find out additional perspectives on when I am able to interview people involved with cohousing.)

Once again, in a parallel to the co-living operations, the primary benefit for cohousing appears to be one of the social kind; the benefit of living in what is referred to as an "intentional community." I think most of us are familiar with the sad story of people being terribly lonely even though they are in fact surrounded by thousands and even millions of other individuals. With our traditional housing formats, we tend to live in little islands, sometimes only yards away from others but in effect virtually disconnected from everyone except those in our immediate environment. The cohousing movement is attempting to offer an alternative to this, and it sounds, according to those who have been involved as if it is quite successful.

Given all of that, it might seem somewhat surprising to realize that the percentage of people in this country actually living in this type of situation is so miniscule. Obviously it isn't the kind of thing that would be for everybody, but I am somewhat surprised that the numbers and especially the percentages are so small. Finding more out about this will be my starting point for my efforts as The Roommate Coach to become involved in and hopefully help this kind of housing alternative become more widely understood and perhaps more popular.