At EcoVillage at Ithaca we have set up our lives to foster
connection. We share meals together several times a week, participate
in work parties, and create our own on-site entertainment. We get to
know and enjoy our neighbors -- without having to drive anywhere! ....
Liz Walker, EcoVillage at Ithaca
Cohousing is a type of intentional living in which residents choose to
live in community, sharing in the design and life of their
Residents live in private homes with typical amenities and also share
indoor and outdoor gathering places, utility and recreational
facilities, gardens, and more. Cohousing communities typically include
a Common House with a large dining area, kitchen and other spaces where
residents share some meals, gather for celebrations and meetings, hold
club activities, and spend casual time together. Cohousing
neighborhoods are usually designed with pedestrian walkways between
homes to encourage frequent and casual meetings among neighbors. The
collaborative ownership of the common facilities provides many
opportunities to work and play together.
- Participatory process.
Future residents participate in the design of the community so that it
meets their needs. Some cohousing communities are initiated or driven
by a developer. In those cases, if the developer brings the future
resident group into the process late in the planning, the residents
will have less input into the design. A well-designed,
pedestrian-oriented community without significant resident
participation in the planning may be “cohousing-inspired,” but it is
not a cohousing community.
- Neighborhood design. The physical
layout and orientation of the buildings (the site plan) encourage a
sense of community. For example, the private residences are clustered
on the site, leaving more shared open space. The dwellings typically
face each other across a pedestrian street or courtyard, with cars
parked on the periphery. Often, the front doorway of every home affords
a view of the common house. What far outweighs any specifics, however,
is the intention to create a strong sense of community, with design as
one of the facilitators.
- Common facilities. Common
facilities are designed for daily use, are an integral part of the
community, and are always supplemental to the private residences. The
common house typically includes a common kitchen, dining area, sitting
area, children's playroom and laundry, and also may contain a workshop,
library, exercise room, crafts room and/or one or two guest rooms.
Except on very tight urban sites, cohousing communities often have
playground equipment, lawns and gardens as well. Since the buildings
are clustered, larger sites may retain several or many acres of
undeveloped shared open space.
- Resident management. Residents
manage their own cohousing communities, and also perform much of the
work required to maintain the property. They participate in the
preparation of common meals, and meet regularly to solve problems and
develop policies for the community.
- Non-hierarchical structure and decision-making.
Leadership roles naturally exist in cohousing communities, however no
one person (or persons) has authority over others. Most groups start
with one or two “burning souls.” As people join the group, each person
takes on one or more roles consistent with his or her skills, abilities
or interests. Most cohousing groups make all of their decisions by
consensus, and, although many groups have a policy for voting if the
group cannot reach consensus after a number of attempts, it is rarely
or never necessary to resort to voting.
- No shared community economy. The
community is not a source of income for its members. Occasionally, a
cohousing community will pay one of its residents to do a specific
(usually time-limited) task, but more typically the work will be
considered that member's contribution to the shared responsibilities.
Some Common Questions about Cohousing
Will I have privacy? Yes, absolutely. Your home is your private home.
Will my home have a kitchen? Yes, you will have your own
kitchen. Each home will also have its own sleeping and living areas,
bathrooms, and other spaces. There may, however, be guest rooms and
laundry facilities in the Common House, allowing you to save space in
your own home.
How will the neighborhood be managed? Residents provide their own management, making decisions together usually using consensus methods.
Is cohousing another name for a commune? Nope, not even
close. Cohousing is also not a shared income-producing organization
for residents. Cohousing is not about a shared religious or political
vision or organization.
To learn more about cohousing, explore the The Cohousing Association of the United States website.