Community Size

Question: I would like to know the number of units of the smallest Cohousing communities and people's opinions about the smallest number of units necessary for a viable Cohousing community.

Response: Years ago, somewhere in the literature I saw the results of a survey that the ideal size was 25-35 households. Under 25 could get too claustrophobic and over 35 too distant.

If our community, Takoma Village, is any measure, communities of 35 units will have 58 adults. Each additional adult seems like 2 more. It's a "get to know you" issue plus the size of meetings and meals. And opinions on every issue. The number of people to consult.

We now have 80+ people for whom to celebrate birthdays. Signing 5-10 birthday cards every month has become a chore that more and more people avoid. And there are more "just signatures" and fewer messages. Fewer and fewer even show up for the birthday cakes and ice cream at Sunday celebrations.

In the last 2-5 years we have had a rash of people moving to assisted living and new jobs. So we have had new residents and a cycle of renters and marriages. As an introvert, I'm so tired of meeting new people, I've taken a break. Two or three I don't recognize and can't aways put names to faces. I can no longer tell you where everyone works. I don't know their relatives when they come to visit. I was stumped when this month's list of children to report on their new school year (and favorite ice cream and TV shows) included "Sparky." I knew it wasn't a dog because the other dogs weren't on the list. It turned out to be the name of our unborn baby.

I think it may vary by whether the community is an attached dwelling or lot model. A lot model would seem to have less of an expectation daily interaction. We have townhouses and apartments, all attached. It's odd not to know very well the people living two doors away or not to see them frequently. I'm sure this will stabilize but it is unlikely to be the same as the 48 adults and 6 children we moved in with. I chose a larger community because I have a "large" personality, but if I had to do it over again, I would choose a smaller one.

Children also bring people together. I used to have children in and out almost every day but they have either grown up. It's very different without them and with their parents coming to look for them.

Community size does matter and will affect what kind of community you have, probably more than anything else.

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Having studied over 300

Having studied over 300 communities, in addition to building and consulting in many more worldwide, Charles Durrett (Principal at McCamant & Durrett Architects) says that, “the best size and number of households seem to be the biggest challenges facing cohousing in America.”

In his seminal book “Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities” (co-authored with his wife and partner, Kathryn McCamant), Charles explains that the optimum size for a community is that which would allow the project to work socially — small enough to know everyone and large enough to facilitate management, but still have direct input.

The best way to find out more about cohousing, especially senior cohousing and how to make it happen for you is our senior cohousing development (train-the-trainers) five-day seminar, “Aging Successfully 2014,” taking place October 6 – 10, 2014 at Nevada City Cohousing in Nevada City, California.

This year we will meet with kindred folks from all over the world for a week-long experience in senior cohousing and living. For more information or to register* visit www.cohousingco.com

Here's to living in community, Thanks!

Bernice

Books links
http://bit.ly/Creating_Cohousing
http://bit.ly/senior_cohousing_handbook