What is Cohousing?
Cohousing has been called a return to the best of small-town neighbourhoods. It sets out to create the kind of community that used to arise spontaneously. Some liken cohousing to the traditional, close-knit community where they grew up. Others view it as a new response to social, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Cohousing is both of these. It’s based on a Danish concept of collaborative housing transplanted to North America 30 years ago, where residents know their neighbours well and which offers community, socializing, and mutual support that is hard to find today.
One thing cohousing is not is a commune, or a group sharing a common religious or social ideology. Cohousing encourages community while respecting the need for privacy and the diverse views and backgrounds of its members.
Cohousing combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of extensive shared amenities, including a common house and recreation areas. Residents stay directly involved in every step of the planning and development process to ensure that the community reflects their priorities.
Cohousing has captured people’s imaginations. Over 160 communities have been built in Canada and the United States, and there are dozens more in development. We are adding to that number with a cohousing community here in Peterborough.
At its best, cohousing promotes environmental, social, and economic sustainability. A well-designed cohousing community uses land efficiently by providing higher-density developments, typically within easy access of public transportation, shopping, entertainment, and other amenities. Many sites also make use solar panels, geothermal heating, and energy-efficient building materials.
Cohousing also fosters social cohesion. Facilities such as the common house and gardens are designed to encourage spontaneous connection. Regular activities such as common meals, social events, and day-to-day interaction strengthens bonds with each other. Residents share equally in decision-making and managing the community’s affairs, deepening engagement with the community.
By sharing resources and leveraging joint purchasing power, cohousing communities enhance their economical sustainability too. Shared common spaces means smaller individual homes which cost less to build. Office equipment, gardening and maintenance tools, recreational equipment can be shared by all. There is a pool of skills and expertise for the community to draw upon.
The fundamental idea binding every cohousing community is the belief that a good life is achieved by supporting and sustaining each other. All cohousing communities share these elements:
Participatory Process – Each member of the cohousing group participates in the project’s development to ensure that it meets their needs, usually with the assistance of a developer or professional facilitator.
Neighborhood Design – The layout of the site and the orientation of its buildings are designed with community in mind. Shared open spaces and a centrally located common house invites residents to drop in and interact with their neighbours. Everything is designed to foster a sense of community.
Common Facilities – Common facilities are designed for daily use. The common house has a dining area with a kitchen, dining room, and sitting area, with additional features such as a workshop, exercise room, crafts room, or guest rooms for visitors.
Resident Management – Cohousing communities are managed by their residents, who take care of maintenance, prepare weekly common meals, and meet regularly to manage the community’s affairs. No one person or group has overriding authority, and decisions are reached by consent.
What defines Cohousing?
Our goal is to be a multi-generational community, where families at all stages can live together to support and enjoy each other.
In cohousing, it really is true that it takes a village to raise a child. Young families have so many demands on their time, including child care, careers, and trying to get ahead. Having so many extra hands really helps to share the burden. And buying a home in a cohousing community is more affordable than a standard single-family house or condominium.
Seniors also benefit. With so many people available to help out, there’s always someone to assist with tasks that may be
getting harder to manage, or to look in on you when you’re ill. Seniors also stay engaged and socially active, which is essential to staving off isolation and loneliness.
There are financial advantages to cohousing too, regardless of age or stage. Operating costs can be shared, or purchases of items such as lawn mowers, tools, or exercise equipment. Most cohousing communities build upon environmentally sound principles, which can realize additional savings in utilities and upkeep.
Perhaps the best part of cohousing is the strong sense of community that it fosters. There’s always someone there to have a chat over coffee, or to go shopping with, or to see a movie. People look out for each other, and learn much from each other – and about themselves.
Living in cohousing is socially and emotionally engaging, and truly expands one’s horizons.