Though there is no precise definition, cohousing communities have characteristics which they typically share. The widely-quoted Six Defining Characteristics of Cohousing is published in full on the Coho/US website. While cohousing communities may appear similar to some mainstream housing developments, the people forming cohousing communities organize to practice ideals of participation, cooperation, sharing, and knowing one’s neighbors. Cohousing communities, typically, use private, home ownership as part of the community’s economic model – making it relatively easy for forming groups to obtain construction and mortgage financing from conventional banks. You may also wish to learn more about what Cohousing is not.
The vast majority of existing cohousing communities had considerable resident input into the design process as it unfolds. For neighborhood-level cohousing, site designs generally cluster housing with enhanced pedestrian and play areas to promote frequent, spontaneous human contact – cars (roads and parking) are usually de-emphasized and set apart from the homes and primary common spaces. Cohousing can also take other forms, including large, shared buildings, and groups of existing dwellings that are retrofitted into Cohousing communities. While many, and probably most, cohousing communities have been self-developed, there are an increasing number of cohousing projects which start with leadership from commercial developers.
Most cohousing communities have a “common house,” a building (or space within a larger building) that most often includes a large kitchen and dining room, with a wide range of other possible facilities. This shared space is intended to act as an extension of the individual private homes, and many cohousing homes are smaller than their non-community counterparts.
Most cohousing communities operate using Consensus decision-making. While there is no typical “Cohousing system” for governance, there is emerging interest in wikipedia:Sociocracy models, due, in part, to its active promotion on Cohousing-L. Work is shared, though use of systems to manage/organize community work varies widely – ranging from little systematic support, aka the so-called “Passion principle” to systems with monthly assessments that pay people who do work which is not done by others. wikipedia:Nonviolent-Communication is being widely explored in cohousing, due to the independent discovery of this practice across multiple cohousing communities and its discussion on Cohousing-L.
Some Cohousing community founders, consultants and activists have shared considerable advise and information since the early days of personal computing. Original versions of many documents now hosted on this wiki were once passed around via floppy disks. This effective information sharing is likely to partially account for what Diana Leafe Christian observed in Creating a Life Together – that the probability of success for new cohousing groups is about 25%, while about 10% for new groups intending to create other forms of intentional communities. It is also likely that the adoption of a set of defined characteristics and adherence to mainstream financial models contributes to this success rate.
- Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US)
- Senior cohousing
- Cohousing, communities directory article by Don Lindemann (2000)
- ‘The’ Cohousing Book (2003)