Promoting a modern alternative to old-fashioned neighborhoods
Cohousing communities across the country are welcoming the public for free tours and visits on Saturday, April 29. Sponsored by the Cohousing Association of the U.S. (Coho/US), The National Cohousing Open House Day will celebrate cohousing and its increased popularity in recent years.
What is cohousing?
Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each attached or single-family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, open space and gardens. Neighbors also share resources like tools and lawnmowers.
Households have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbors collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces. The legal structure is typically an HOA, Condo Association or Housing Cooperative. Community activities feature regularly-scheduled shared meals, meetings and workdays. Neighbors gather for parties, games, movies or other events. Cohousing makes it easy to form clubs, organize child and elder care and carpool.
Why are people choosing cohousing?
Interest in cohousing has surged in recent years, a trend driven by baby boomers seeking a downsized, community-oriented and environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Cohousing is also gaining traction among millennials as they search for a better way to raise their children.
As social scientists confirm, we’re happier, healthier, longer living people with daily social interactions and connections. A recent UCLA study suggests that loneliness is a health hazard. “A wonderful aspect of cohousing is that you can enjoy your privacy and individuality, but you can simply walk outside to enjoy the connections all around you “ explains Peter Lazar, a member of Shadowlake Village Cohousing in Blacksburg, Virginia. “It’s nice not feeling like another face behind a door backing out of the carport, but a person who’s relied upon, and who can rely upon others nearby when necessary,” shares Carolyn Kroll, a member of Durham Cohousing in North Carolina.
Cohousing allows residents to pool efforts and resources for occasional shared meals, child and elder care. Shared gardens and environmentally-friendly structures contribute to lower carbon footprints. “The intention is for communities to come together and share resources rather than pulling into your garage and closing the doors and never knowing your neighbors,” says Shawn Mulligan, who lives at Stone Curves in Tucson, a community that recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Sharon Cluster-Boggess, a member of Jubilee Cohousing shares, “I really do believe the ability to work together in a community is what is going to save the planet.”
Cohousing offers a feeling of security, both physical and financially. Common values usually encompass living a healthy lifestyle, respect for the environment, lifelong learning, personal growth and positive contributions to society. Steve Chiasson, a member of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Maine, said the experience of helping create the community he lives in, the responsibility of shaping it going forward in the company of thoughtful, values-driven neighbors “helps me feel more relevant and engaged,” he said. “And we all know that staying active, physically and mentally, keeps us healthier as we age.”
Cohousing a successful model
Research conducted by Coho/US in 2012 confirms that cohousing is good for children, parents, singles, seniors, the neighborhoods around them and the environment. Cohousing as a model has been highly successful in terms of member happiness and life satisfaction, and reduced energy use and resource conservation. This success has given rise to some interesting spinoffs in affordable and supportive housing projects for veterans, special need groups, and others, that physically look and act like cohousing – evidence that others have learned and benefited from the pioneering work of cohousing.
The loss of neighborliness and social connection over past decades and the resulting negative psychological and physical health impacts have been extensively profiled in recent years. Cohousing communities are an innovative and sustainable response to today’s challenge of social connection.
For more information on National Cohousing Open House Day, visit cohousing.org/openhouse2017.
For a directory of area cohousing communities visit cohousing.org/directory.
The Cohousing Association of the United States advances cohousing by assisting communities through a robust network of resources and access to technical assistance; and educating the public about the benefits of cohousing, from resource conservation and sustainability to resilient communities and healthy families.
By Alice Alexander, The Cohousing Association of the United States