context: co-housing is a style of life that is rapidly spreading throughout the world by becoming a model of sustainability in everyday life. Far from being ideologically oriented, as the first co-housing communities of the 70s were, today’s communities embody the principles of sustainable living by compacting household activities and promoting social interaction. Some call them a return to the best of small-town communities. Others say they are like a traditional village or the close-knit neighbourhoods where they grew up, while futurists call them an altogether new response to the social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Each holds a piece of the truth. Co-housing is about living in a way that's responsive to a world that has changed dramatically in the last fifty years - a world in which home life has changed, women are an integral part of the labour force, resource limitations and environmental concerns are on the rise, and many people feel over-extended. It offers hope in our often-dissociated society and gives an opportunity to build a better place to live, a place where we can contribute to a more sustainable world.
what: co-housing is a concept that came to North America from Denmark in 1988, where it emerged more than 25 years ago. Today, 10% of all new housing construction in Denmark uses this model! Neighbourhoods that combine the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living distinguish it. Residents usually own their individual homes, which are clustered around a ‘common house’ with shared amenities. These amenities may include a kitchen and dining room, a children's playroom, workshops, guest rooms, home office support, an arts and crafts area, laundry and more. Each home is self-sufficient with a complete kitchen, but resident-cooked dinners are often available at the common house for those who wish to participate. In some communities participants will join a cooking team once or twice a month - then sit and enjoy meals cooked by fellow residents the remaining evenings of the month.
who: a lot of young couples and family units are adopting this style, conscious of the strong social value they gain and of the lower impact that their household activities might produce on the environment. Co-housing neighbourhoods typically range from 10-35 households emphasising a multigenerational mix of singles, couples, and families with children, and elders.
where: the highest number of co-housing communities is to be found in Northern Europe (Denmark has been at the forefront of the development of co-housing communities), Australia and North America, but more and more increasingly the concept of co-housing is spreading elsewhere.
networking: many organisations and associations connect and network the various communities at a national and international level. Some of them are:
Cohousing Association of the USA, www.cohousing.org
Canadian Cohousing Network, www.cohousing.ca
Cohousing Australia, www.cohousing.org.au
Cohousing Network Japan, www.cohousing-japan.org and
Swedish Collective Housing Network, www.kollektivhus.nu