Cohousing can be urban, suburban, or rural. A key feature of a community is its flexibility to the needs and values of its residents and characteristics of the site. Most cohousing groups make development and design decisions by consensus, and forge a strong partnership with their professional development team. Because residents design the community themselves, they feel a connection to the land and each other before the physical community is even built.
How a dream becomes reality
Cohousing communities begin with a vision. Future residents soon forge strong ties with one another and develop a sense of community as they work together to organize the group, make effective decisions, and build and grow their cohousing neighborhood. Members of forming groups must decide, “What do we want our cohousing community to look like?” Once a vision is agreed upon, future residents develop the project by finding a building site, designing the community, working through the local governmental approval process, hiring and managing construction professionals and cohousing consultants, and incorporating maximum sustainability principles. Group members will also need to make decisions about the financial realities of their project, including financing options, ownership structures, and project management, that is, keeping the project on track and on budget. The process of turning a cohousing dream into reality is challenging, but the ultimate reward is an innovative and collaborative community to call home.
What does cohousing look like
Most cohousing communities are designed to be compact. Cohousing communities consist of private, fully-equipped dwellings and extensive common amenities including recreation areas and a common house. Many neighborhoods are planned to keep cars to the periphery, which promotes interacting with neighbors and increases safety for playing children. Shared green space is also a key feature – whether for gardening, playing, or socializing. A final key feature is the common house – the “living room” of the community. Cohousing communities depend on cooperation and collaboration, from start to finish.
Residents work together to create a custom-built, resident-managed, close-knit neighborhood that offers a healthy balance of privacy and community. It takes a long time to build a cohousing community, but the process is worth it!
by Melissa French-Emery and Ellen Orleans
Editor’s note: Occasionally we reprint earlier articles that continue to have value. This article appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of our print magazine, Cohousing, written by two individuals who...