Is it me or is ‘cohousing’ not a particularly attractive word? There’s just something about it that says, I’m going to be boring! If that’s what you were thinking, too, then give it a chance. You should definitely dig beneath the surface.
Cohousing is a Danish concept that’s been around since the 1960s. No doubt there will have been numerous converts since then but I only found out about it this year. To be honest I am stunned that things haven’t moved more quickly, but I would be very surprised if in the next 20 or 30 years it doesn’t become a mainstream movement (as it actually is now in Denmark).
So, I suppose I better explain a little bit about what it is in case you are in the dark (like I was). Fundamentally it comes down to designing communities whereby there are more frequent opportunities for interaction. This still means that everyone has their own home, but at the same time they have access to shared facilities. This may mean that the houses can be smaller (with a smaller mortgage, too) because there are shared guest bedrooms on site and a spacey common room, etc. And to top it all off, the people making the decisions all the way through the process are the residents themselves.
Sharing is a key theme as is mutual support. What I suppose is worth saying at this point is to greater or lesser degrees, we may have some elements of cohousing where we live now. If the developer was good then perhaps it was even intentional.
I currently live in a cul-de-sac of about 25 houses. I feel that both having a dead-end road and a small number of houses is the reason why we all know each other. A Jubilee street party certainly helped!
Anyway, cohousing has many more facets to it and I was lucky enough to visit the award-winning Lancaster Cohousing project to see it all first hand. Of course, I just saw the finished product and not the 7 years of toil that got it to where it is today.
My guest in the latest podcast is one of the founders, Mark Westcombe. He shares the story behind the project and, funnily enough, before he even knew about cohousing he was unwittingly heading in its direction!