Twin Cities Cohousing Network defines cohousing as a cooperative housing community that begins as a group of potential future residents who agree on certain fundamental issues. Before considering any structural details, this group meets regularly, building trust, a governance process, and group identity.
Collectively–working in collaboration with an architect and other professionals–the group designs the physical structures of their future community together, which might involve either rehabbing an older building or building new structures. Each household puts down money to help finance the work. Work begins.
Once complete, each household then purchases their own private housing unit, and people move in. The community is self-managed.
Each household owns its own private and complete apartment or other domicile. A “common house” (central building) and other spaces owned in common provide ample opportunity for interaction with others, which the community is designed to foster. Each person in the community decides how much interaction they wish to have with others.
The architect team of McCamant and Durrett coined the term “cohousing” for a concept they brought over from Denmark in the 1980s.
Since that time, about 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.