What is Cohousing?

Cohousing is a group of households who live in private homes and share common spaces with each other. In most cohousing communities, the homes are owned and the community is self-managed by its residents.

The community begins with a group of potential future residents who agree on certain fundamental issues such as location, and whether it will be multi-generational or be focused on active seniors. Before considering any structural details, this group meets regularly to build trust, agree on their governance process, and to create their group identity and values.

three women talking to each other in a landscaped common area of a cohousing community
Cohousing nurtures social relationships

Working in collaboration with an architect and other professionals, the group designs their future community together. This might involve rehabbing an older building or building new. Each household puts down money to help finance the purchase of the site, architectural plans, and required reviews. When construction is approved, work begins.

Each household is responsible for purchasing their own private housing unit. Owners move in as units are completed. The community has prepared to be self-managed, meaning the residents make all decisions about their community including how it is run and maintained.

Munksøgård’s common kitchen, Denmark

In addition to each household’s private dwelling unit, a “common house” (central building) featuring a kitchen and large dining room, plus additional spaces owned in common, such as workshops, playrooms, guest rooms, gardens, etc., provide ample opportunity for the interaction with others that the community was designed to foster. This usually includes design features such as locating parking away from each individual unit to encourage walking through common areas to reach one’s home. Each person in the community decides how much interaction they wish to have with others. Respect for privacy is also considered necessary and important.

Architects Katie McCamant and Charles Durrett coined the term “CoHousing” for a concept they brought over from Denmark in the 1980s.

image showing cozy seating areas for adults and children in a well-lit 
common house
Winslow Cohousing common room.
Bainbridge, WA.

Since that time, more than 150 cohousing communities have been built in the United States. You can see a listing of most of them at The Cohousing Association of the United States, and search by state or geographic location.