What is Cohousing?
Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.
Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.
on this page are from McCamant and Durrett's most recent cohousing
development in Nevada City, CA.
Cohousing communities are usually designed as attached or
single-family homes along one or more pedestrian streets or
clustered around a courtyard. They range in size from 7 to 67
residences, the majority of them housing 20 to 40 households.
Regardless of the size of the community, there are many
opportunities for casual meetings between neighbors, as well as
for deliberate gatherings such as celebrations, clubs and
The common house is the social center of a community, with a
large dining room and kitchen, lounge, recreational facilities,
children’s spaces, and frequently a guest room, workshop and
laundry room. Communities usually serve optional group meals in
the common house at least two or three times a week.
The need for community members to take care of common property
builds a sense of working together, trust and support. Because
neighbors hold a commitment to a relationship with one another,
almost all cohousing communities use consensus as the basis for
The cohousing idea originated in
Denmark, and was promoted in the U.S. by American architects
Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, a husband and wife team
from Berkeley, after they spent 1980-81 studying in Copenhagen.
In 1988, McCamant and Durrett published Cohousing: A
Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, the book that
became the inspiration for the American cohousing movement.
Cohousing in America has flourished under the energetic
leadership of Katie McCamant
and Chuck Durrett,
Blunden and others. Worldwide, there are now hundreds of
cohousing communities, expanding from Denmark into the US,
Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands,
Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and elsewhere
is Cohousing," Cohousing Association of America (see
Defining Characteristics of
Participatory Process: Residents participate in
the planning and design of the development so that it
directly responds to their needs.
Neighborhood Design: The physical design
encourages a sense of community.
Private Homes Supplemented by Extensive Common
Facilities: Each household has a private residence
— complete with a kitchen — but has access to all of the
common facilities. The common house is designed for daily
use and supplements private living areas. Facilities often
extend beyond the common house to include children's play
areas, vegetable gardens, and the like.
Complete Resident Management: Residents take
complete responsibility for on-going management, organizing
cooperatively to meet their changing needs.
Non-Hierarchical Structure: While there are
leadership roles, responsibility for the decisions are
shared by the community's adults.
Separate Income Sources: There is no shared
Further Reading & Useful Links
Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett (Ten Speed Press, 1993)
Does the idea of not having to cook meals for yourself or family every night, deal with traffic on your block, or worry when your children are out playing in the neighborhood appeal to you? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider exploring cohousing, a concept that originated in Denmark in the early 1970s and has spread throughout Europe.
Reinventing Community: Stories from the Walkways of Cohousing by David Wann, editor (Fulcrum Publishing, 2005)
"The folks David Wann profiles in Reinventing Community are the vanguard for the future -- they're learning today, often by painful and sometimes humorous trial and error, what it takes to go beyond the solitary and alienated survival tactics of modern urban life to the full flowering of the human spirit of tomorrow, in community."
-- Eric Utne, founder of Utne magazine
The Cohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community by Chris and Kelly ScottHanson (New Society Publishers, 2004)
As pioneers in the development of cohousing in North America, Chris and Kelly ScottHanson offer individuals and new groups a wealth of information and practical hints on how the process works. The Cohousing Handbook covers every element that goes into the creation of a cohousing project, including group processes, land acquisition, finance and budgets, construction, development professionals, design considerations, permits, approvals and membership.
Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community by Diana Leafe Christian (New Society Publishers, 2007)
Finding Community presents a comprehensive overview of ecovillages and intentional communities and offers solid advice on how to research thoroughly, visit thoughtfully, evaluate intelligently, and join gracefully.
Cohousing Partners, LLC Rick Mockler, Project Manager
613 G Street, Davis, CA 95616 ~ (530) 297-7115
Cohousing Resources, LLC P.O. Box 1288, Langley, WA 98260 ~ (360) 321-7850