Cohousing communities bring together the advantages of private homes and communal life.
Cohousing can be made up of standalone houses, townhouses, apartments, duplexes etc. It is where a group of people intentionally agree to work together to create a place where they can all live close to one another – independently in their own separate ‘homes’ – but sharing some things as part of the broader community. A key part of cohousing developments is that the future community shares in the design of the community to be.
Cohousing communities usually have a shared ‘common house’ and shared outdoor space. The outdoor space will offer car free, green recreation space and often has a common garden. The common house will have a shared space with kitchen that can be used for shared meals and gatherings. It may also have extra bedrooms so that community members don’t all have to have an extra bedroom for when the relatives visit, a music room, shared office space, library, kids play area, recycling space or whatever the community wants.
Sharing spaces has many advantages.
Socially – Human beings are inherently social creatures. We live longer and healthier lives when we are socially connected to others. Despite that, our cities are built so that people often have no connection with their neighbourhoods. Cohousing is a way to live happier and healthier lives. Living communally is how most people have lived over the millennia.
Environmentally – Sharing facilities offers a way to build smaller homes without losing amenity. New ACT houses are the biggest in the country at 256.3 square metres. Over the last 60 years Australian houses have more than doubled in size. Size matters, it takes more resources to build bigger and then to run the bigger space. As well cohousing developments are built to be energy efficient and use sustainable building materials as much as possible.
Financially – Shared spaces mean that you have shared space for the occasional visitor to stay over, or to do your yoga practice etc. So you pay less for the same options. In addition, some cohousing developments offer potential owners the chance to invest from the beginning of the project, thus getting much of the profit margin that developers would otherwise get but of course taking the risk the developer would otherwise take.
What co-housing does not share
Residents do not share income and owners of units are able to sell them if and when they chose. We expect that a cohousing community would be legally either a unit title or community title development. These give all owners a say in how the community is run. Co-housing is not a commune.
Cohousing developments can maintain physical distance while facilitating social connection and thus can be good places to ride-out societal problems.