What is Cohousing?
By Dave Glaze – April 25th, 2012
The typical physical design of a cohousing project is an arrangement of multiple households around a common open area or courtyard, together with the provision of substantial common space within the complex.
When a cohousing project is being developed, members are intensely involved with the planning, design and construction of their buildings. This participation, beginning in the earliest discussions, underscores a commitment to work together to create a unique village.
Members and their architects create design features that increase the possibilities for frequent contact. For instance, in Wolf Willow informal gathering places have been situated in the common house courtyard, the walkways and the outside spaces. While the participatory development process establishes the initial sense of community, it is the physical design that sustains it over time.
An integral part of the community, the common house is designed to complement the private living areas.
Features at the core of our building are:
- Guest rooms
- Multi-purpose rooms
- Central kitchen and dining hall
- Exercise room
Cohousing developments in Canada have chosen to adopt the condominium ownership model. Each unit is owned by the occupants who also own a share of everything in the common areas. Although the names are similar, co-operative housing is not the same as cohousing. In co-operative housing, shareholders own shares in the building(s) and have the right to rent one of the units.
A key component of cohousing is that members make decisions about common concerns at regular community meetings. Prior to moving in, our members crafted policies on such diverse topics as smoking, pets, renting and building maintenance. This policy-making continues once the project is occupied. Members adopt and adapt decision-making models—often consensus—that reflect their approach to living in community. The responsibility for decisions and actions is shared by all community members. The division of labour is based on what each member feels she or he can contribute. No one person is allowed to dominate decisions and no one person should be overburdened by the process.
Reflecting the cohousing commitment to live in a smaller footprint, it is not surprising that most projects are determined to create a “green” building.