Have you ever dreamed of living in a neighborhood where neighbors know one another well, children can play and explore safely and seniors can age in their own homes?
You may be dreaming about cohousing.
In cohousing, families have private homes but share a lot of common space and resources. There are shared meals, shared open spaces and a common house for gathering. Kids can roam freely outside, and everyone has a community they can count on for friendship and support.
The inspiration for cohousing comes from the roots of human society: the village, where community members share tasks, belongings, traditions and celebrations. In modern times, this type of connection can be hard to find in neighborhoods that emphasize privacy and security rather than community.
Cohousing is gaining popularity in the US, providing an alternative to “going it alone” and helping people live more sustainable, socially supported lives. There are more than 160 cohousing communities nationally, with nearly that many in development.
Cohousing members prepare a common meal.
Common Characteristics of Cohousing
Each cohousing community is different, but they share these common qualities:
Strong and meaningful relationships:
Because neighbors commit to being part of a community and neighborhood designs promote frequent interaction, cohousing cultivates a culture of support and belonging.
Collaboration and participation:
Neighbors make decisions together on matters that impact everyone. This style of self-management empowers residents, builds community and saves money.
Designed for safety…
The design of cohousing communities balances safety, freedom and a sense of support and connection. Neighbors know one another well, the homes face the common outdoor areas and cars are kept on the periphery, allowing kids to roam freely outside.
A balance between privacy and community:
With private homes and shared amenities, each resident can choose their own level of engagement. Get-togethers such as shared meals are usually optional.
Shared values, brought
Cohousing communities help residents live their values. Communities typically adopt sustainable approaches to living and plan lots of events to share skills and support.
This group has become our family away from family. I can't imagine our lives without them."
- Liz, Cohousing ABQ neighbor
Great for Families with Kids
From shared meals and chores to impromptu meetups with neighbors, cohousing makes it easier and more fun to be a parent. Kids benefit from cohousing, too, with safe spaces to roam and explore and a crew of buddies (and grownups!) to play with and learn from.
Cohousing kids play on our annual camping trip in the Jemez Mountains.
Benefits for parents
On a typical day, modern parents have a lot on their plates. From school to work, extracurriculars to meal planning, playdates to keeping the house clean — it’s a lot!
Cohousing communities help lessen the hardships of raising kids today and enhance the joys. A couple of times a week, you’ll arrive home to find a delicious dinner and a group of friends and neighbors waiting for you at the community common house. Instead of needing a structured activity, your kids can run outside to join their neighbors in a game of hide-and-seek. There are other parents to carpool with, ask for advice, hang out with… and commiserate with.
In cohousing, parents have a whole neighborhood of people who want to help, whether it’s loaning a tool or bringing over soup when someone is sick. These daily supports and opportunities for connection make a difference — and they’re a big reason more and more parents are choosing to raise their kids in cohousing communities.
Tea party at Maggie's house. Parents not invited.
Picnic at the beach on the Rio Grande near our land.
Cohousing kids climbing trees by the river.
Benefits for Kids
In cohousing, kids not only have the freedom to play outside and a group of kids to run around with, they are also seen as valued participants in a multigenerational community that respects even the youngest voices. They are welcome at community meetings and invited to contribute, and their opinions and ideas help shape the community’s culture. In this way, kids gain confidence and learn valuable life skills, such as working as a team, compromising and expressing their opinions respectfully.
Kids also get to know people of all ages and people from diverse backgrounds, giving them access to a wide range of ideas and experiences. They have opportunities to learn crafts and skills from other kids and trusted adults, share in group meals and activities and enjoy community resources like shared toys, books and play spaces.
Patti teaching Lena sewing.
Cohousing is cool because it’s cool houses and all our friends get to live next to each other and there’s a yard with a little grassy lawn and I can play with my friends there."
- Ori, age 6
Learn more about cohousing — its history and benefits, and what’s happening now.
"In America, we have gotten really good at designing community out of the picture. It's important that we get people back in a village-like setting where they know each other, they care about each other and they support each other…". Explore the concept of cohousing through first-hand observations and interviews with residents in this long-awaited 27 minute documentary about cohousing.