Match what you want with what’s available.
• You may only want to join a cohousing community if one already exists in your area. This limits your options of course, but saves you time and money ultimately, since it’s relatively easy to move across town.
• You may be open to relocating to another city to join a cohousing community if your financial and/or job situation will allow it. Many cohousers have done this, and it can work well. It certainly gives you more options! But it could take much longer to find the community that’s right for you, and involves travel, time away from work, and the expenses of travel and moving.
• Joining an already-built cohousing community is quite a different experience from joining a forming-community group and helping create the project over the next few months or years. There are benefits and challenges to either approach.
Time: If you join an existing cohousing community you just buy a unit for sale from a departing member. You move right in. If you join a forming cohousing community, you might wait months or years to move in, depending upon the phase of development of the group when you join it.
People: You might want to join X existing community because you like it, or because there’s a unit available right now. Or, you may want to join Y forming-community group (core group) because you like the people, and/or because their values and goals match your own. Please keep in mind that the people in the core group can change significantly from first meeting to move-in, because many group members will leave and new ones will join. Michael Black, the late cohousing architect, cited statistics indicating that only one-fifth of the people who participate in the design charrette of a forming cohousing community will typically end up living there once it’s built. Four-fifths will leave the group and be replaced by new people. So liking the people you meet in the core group when you join is not necessarily a reliable indicator of how well you’ll like living in the community later.
Location: Maybe location is more important to you than time or people considerations (and this would be true for many people). This can work out well if there is a forming cohousing core group in the area where you want to live, or an already existing cohousing community in that area and a unit is for sale now. (And if they don’t have a unit for sale now, you can get on their waiting list.) If not, you may have to wait awhile until someone (perhaps yourself?) decides to start a cohousing group there.