Picture a walkable community, where everyone knows each other, people come together for community activities, and neighbors help each other with home projects. This dream is neither a small town nor a cult commune, but rather cohousing, where communities are often located just outside of big cities.
In a previous post, we discussed moving abroad to save money in terms of housing and health care costs. However, many people cannot move abroad, either due to health care restrictions or family reasons. Retiring in place by retrofitting your home is an opportunity for some, as is moving into smaller accommodations built especially for seniors.
However, for those who prefer more community at any age, a new and affordable trend is emerging. A relatively new trend in the US, cohousing is becoming more enticing to many people.
Cohousing allows people of very different ages, from young children to elderly adults, to live together, share work responsibilities, collaborate on projects and, best of all, save money.
Cohousing is growing in popularity because it does appeal to so many different people, not just retirees. Couples with children who want to raise their kids in a communal environment and young adults who want a more walkable lifestyle are all flocking to cohousing.
However, while cohousing may sound like an affordable utopia, is it really feasible? Can many different people live and work together without driving each other insane? Is this just an open-air version of Big Brother? It depends on a variety of factors, but cohousing may become a suitable option for many!
What is Cohousing?
Wikipedia defines a cohousing community as “a type of intentional community composed of private homes supplemented by shared facilities.” Urban Coup, a cohousing community in Melbourne, Australia, defines it in more detail, as a space where you can “enjoy the privacy of your own home, and yet walk out your back door to be part of a community with which you share a garden, some common facilities and even a regular meal.”
The modern theory of cohousing originally began in Europe and evolved from the idea that children need a community of “parents” to help raise and socialize them. Architects in the United States embraced the idea as an opportunity to design walkable and livable communities in areas that were previously spread out and isolated.
Cohousing is moving beyond the fringe to be embraced by people in many different stages of life. Both Millennials and Baby Boomers are turning to cohousing as a solution to isolation and distance, putting their unique skills together to create a community where all are welcome.
Benefits of Cohousing
Cohousing offers many benefits to residents and those seeking a less isolated community. Beyond knowing your neighbors, these communities offer amenities such as:
- Walkable living. Many cohousing communities are created with walkers (not Walking Dead walkers, human walkers) and bicyclists in mind. Some communities feature individual garages, but many simply offer some parking spots but encourage car-sharing over car-ownership (Uber, Zip Car, etc.)
- Participatory decision-making. Residents participate in the design and management of their communities, including communal spaces and activities. If you join a cohousing community during the design process, you may be able to meet with a developer to discuss your visions for a livable space. Typically, residents also manage their own communities and meet regularly to solve problems and develop community policies.
- Communal facilities. Some communities offer much more than friendly neighbors and a walkable space. A community kitchen, gym, recreation center for children, workshops and libraries are all fairly common communal spaces for cohousing community members.
Since everything is generally walkable, and there are regular community activities, you may end up saving more in a cohousing community than you would in a typical, non-cohousing community. Many homes also incorporate sustainable design elements, including solar roofs and bamboo flooring, which can save in electricity and construction costs.
Cons of Cohousing
Of course, no one community is perfect. Like moving abroad, cohousing comes with its own downsides, although it’s up to you to determine how much of that is worth it to live in a cohousing community.
- Community decision-making. For better or worse, these communities are generally governed by residents. If you’ve ever spent time on a Homeowners Association (HOA) board, you’ll understand how this could turn sour quickly. Lazy community members, petulant neighbors, people who hold grudges can be found almost anywhere. Choose the wrong community at your peril!
- Communal facilities. Yes, both a blessing and a curse, communal facilities typically have to be managed by someone. If your fellow community members are lazy or grumpy, communal facility maintenance may fall on you.
- Certain expenses. While cohousing homes cost roughly the same as similar homes in the area, you will have to factor in other expenses. Some communities charge HOA-like fees for maintenance. Other communities don’t offer parking lots or garages, which means if you do need to drive a car to work, you may have to pay to keep it elsewhere.
While you can save money in certain aspects of a cohousing community, you do have to consider other, less common costs associated with cohousing. Introverts may have a problem with cohousing, as community is highly emphasized and a certain amount of socialization is expected.
Where You Can Find Cohousing Communities
If you’re interested in learning more about cohousing communities, you can check out Cohousing.Org, the Cohousing Association of the United States. If you want to live in California, you can also check out this Nevada City house for sale too.
Ultimately, cohousing communities are yet another affordable option for those looking beyond the traditional “house in the suburbs” experience.
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Would you choose to live in a cohousing community, now or in the future? What about cohousing communities appeals or doesn’t appeal to you?