Six Characteristics of Cohousing

LiveWell Cohousing Consulting, based in British Columbia, is helping to spread the cohousing model across Canada.

Cohousing helps to promote a return to community-centric living, away from the current focus on individualistic consumerism. There are several reasons for the demise of traditional community including the advent of suburbia, the automobile and television. More recently, social media, the recession of public space and the high mobility of people and jobs.

People are living longer and longer and often alone. A return to a more neighbourly and supportive style of living will help to reduce the current epidemic, especially amongst seniors, of loneliness and isolation.

What makes cohousing different from other types of collaborative living?

  1. Participatory process

Future residents participate in the design of the community so that it meets their needs. A well-designed, pedestrian-oriented community without significant resident participation in the planning may be “cohousing-inspired,” but it is not a cohousing community.

  1. Neighbourhood design

The physical layout and orientation of the buildings (the site plan) encourage a sense of community and social interactions. For example, the private residences are clustered on the site, leaving more shared open space. The goal is to create a strong sense of community using physical design choices.

  1. Common facilities

Common facilities are designed for daily use, are an integral part of the community and are supplemental to the private residences. Participating in the community is always optional, not required.

  1. Resident management

Residents manage their own cohousing communities and also perform much of the work required to maintain the property. They participate in the preparation of common meals and meet regularly to solve problems and develop policies for the community.

  1. Non-hierarchical structure and decision-making

Leadership roles naturally exist in cohousing communities, however no one person (or persons) has authority over others. Most groups start with one or two “burning souls.” As people join the group, each person takes on one or more roles consistent with his or her skills, abilities or interests. Most cohousing groups make all of their decisions by consensus or similar forms of consent decision-making and, although many groups have a policy for voting if the group cannot reach consensus after a number of attempts, it is rarely or never necessary to resort to voting.

  1. No shared community economy

The community is not a source of income for its members. Occasionally, a cohousing community will pay one of its residents to do a specific (usually time-limited) task, but more typically the work will be considered that member’s contribution to the shared responsibilities.

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To learn about cohousing initiatives in Hamilton, please contact Judy Shepalo, Seniors Real Estate Specialist: [email protected], 905-517-6494.