What is Cohousing?


Cohousing Neighbourhoods… Some people call them a return to the best of small-town communities. Others say they are like a traditional village or the close-knit neighbourhood where they grew up, while futurists call them an altogether new response to social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Each holds a piece of the truth.

Cohousing is a concept that came to North America from Denmark. It combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living.

In North America 119 cohousing communities have been completed since 1991 (7 of which are in BC), and the concept is spreading throughout the world.

Cohousing is based on private ownership of complete, self-contained homes centered around and focused on shared facilities, such as a Common House with children’s play spaces, adult meeting spaces, library, office, workshop, guest room, common kitchen and dining room, gardens, greenhouse and other features the members may choose. Many cohousing groups reduce the size of their private units because owners are able to use the common spaces for social events.

Although each home has its own complete kitchen, shared dinners are available a few days each week at the common house for those who wish to participate.

Cohousing communities are most often legally structured as  condominium, which allows for individual ownership of homes and common ownership of shared amenities.

Cohousing residents participate in the planning and design of the community and after completion are involved in the ongoing management and maintenance.

The physical layout is designed to provide personal privacy as well as create opportunities for interaction with neighbours. Cohousing neighbourhoods tend to offer environmentally sensitive design with a pedestrian orientation and have documented lower vehicle use than conventional neighbourhoods.

It’s about living in a way that’s responsive to a world that has changed dramatically in the last fifty years – a world in which the home life has changed, women are integral in the labour force, resource limitations and environmental concerns are on the rise, and many people feel over extended. Cohousing is a place where people know their neighbours, a place where they can enjoy a rich sense of community and contribute to a more sustainable world.

The characteristics of cohousing draw many different people, and the celebration of diversity is one of the ideals. For some, cohousing provides relief from the loneliness and isolation that is often inherent in conventional developments; for others the appeal lies in the sense of belonging to an active community, or the opportunity to create a model for a new way of living together that is more socially and environmentally sustainable.

More information about cohousing in Canada is available on the Canadian Cohousing Network website.