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What Is Cohousing?

Cohousing is a community-based housing model that started in Denmark and Holland in the 1970s and emerged in the United States around 1990. 

In European countries, cohousing is widespread and enjoys public and quasi-public support. In Denmark, two percent of the population lives in cohousing, the equivalent of 6.5 million people in the United States!

Cohousing was brought to the United States in the late 1980s by California architects and husband-wife team, Charles Durrett and Katie McCamant, who coined the term “cohousing” and have since designed and/or helped develop dozens of projects in North America.  

Cohousing neighborhoods are made up of privately owned houses clustered around shared green space and a large common house with extensive amenities, including guests suites, workshops, laundry, and a large kitchen and dining room where residents can share meals, activities, and celebrations. 

Common facilities and activities draw residents together in their daily lives and create the sense of an old-fashioned village. Life in cohousing is the kind of life that our ancestors had for centuries, where people know and care about each other and look out for each other.

Cohousing residents enjoy it all: they have as much privacy as they want in their own homes, and as much community as they want, just by walking out their front door.

Cohousing home prices are comparable to market-rate for their area. However, living expenses are much lower than in conventional housing because of their many "green" features and because residents share many resources.

Most communities are financially structured like condo associations. But they differ in that they share an intention to be good neighbors and have close-knit connections.  

Cohousing communities get created when a few pioneer souls band together and collaborate with the necessary professionals (developer, architect, consultant, etc.) to plan and design their neighborhood and get it built. After they move in, the residents self-manage it.

There are 160 inter-generational cohousing neighborhoods in the United States with about 130 in development.  

Senior cohousing began in the 1990s, also in Denmark, and emerged in the United States around 2005. These neighborhoods are designed to meet the changing physical and social needs of older adults. They have the distinct advantage of being communities of peers, who not only share values, but who are also at the same place in life’s journey and will be there for each other as they age and need help. There are currently 14 such communities, with about a dozen in development.