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What is Cohousing?

Is Cohousing Right for You?

There are perhaps as many definitions of cohousing as there are cohousing communities! Each one defines itself in its own way. There are urban cohousing communities, nestled in the heart of the downtown or in a residential neighbourhood, and there is rural cohousing, where the residents often cooperate in growing at least some of their own food, and may even incorporate full-scale farming.

Essentially, cohousing can be thought of as a small intentional community of private homes, or apartment units, clustered around a shared space, which usually includes a large kitchen, dining area, office space and recreational areas. Neighbours typically get together to maintain their shared space, plan community activities, eat meals and lend a helping hand to one another when needed. In nearly every cohousing community, the management is handled democratically by residents who live on the property.

The six defining characteristics of a cohousing community:

  1. Participatory process: residents participate in the design of their community

  2. Neighbourhood design: the physical layout of the buildings encourage a sense of community and interaction

  3. Common facilities: includes a Common House; supplemental to fully independent private homes; designed for daily use

  4. Resident management: residents manage and do much of the maintaining of the community themselves

  5. Non-Hierarchical structure and decision-making: consensus or sociocracy is the primary means of decision-making; responsibilities are distributed according to skills, interests, and abilities

  6. Neighbour support network: There is no shared economy in Cohousing (no paid services/help). However, as might be expected among neighbours who are closely connected, neighbourly support for a more convenient and secure lifestyle is encouraged. This quality is especially significant for senior Cohousing members. The social synergy in Cohousing projects capitalizes on the collective energy, creativity, and diversity of skills, knowledge, and interests among neighbours.

Benefits of Cohousing

There are many perks to living in a cohousing community. Here are a few of the biggest factors encouraging people to choose this lifestyle.


One of the most obvious benefits of cohousing is the cost savings. By sharing land and living spaces, residents are able to get more affordable housing compared to living independently and having to own everything they need. This cost savings can be particularly attractive to young professionals looking to start their career without breaking the bank on rent. Cohousing isn’t that different from living in a dorm room, making it an easy transition for recent college graduates.


Luxury amenities like laundry and maid services, gourmet kitchens, and fitness areas are often included in more urban cohousing communities. This could be a big selling feature of living in a cohousing setup. Busy professionals might find it especially appealing not only to not have to worry about upkeep and maintenance but to also not even have to worry about coordinating or separately paying for these services that they are likely to have anyways.

Sense of Community

The biggest attraction of a cohouse living will be the sense of community. These living situations are designed to be a built-in network of support and camaraderie. This could be especially attractive to someone moving to town for the first time or people who work long hours and don’t have time to go out and meet new people. This can be especially important for seniors, where social isolation can be a problem. Many cohousing communities aim for a multigenerational blend of young families, empty-nesters and seniors.

For more information on cohousing, see the Links page.

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