Why consider Co-Housing?
I have a personal love of Co-Housing because I had very formative experiences in my 20s being part of a group of people who developed a Co-Housing building and community that still exists today, over 25 years later. It was a group of like-minded people who wanted more than the normal route of renting or owning their own space, we wanted that, but we also wanted community and more sustainable options. It was exciting, and a lovely way to live, that I look forward to being a part of again. We had close friends nearby, their children who knew us as surrogate aunts and uncles, and plenty of easy gatherings with our communal spaces and activities.
My husband AJ always said, “You know you are living in Co-Housing when it takes you 90 minutes and 2 beers to get up to your suite after work.” Indeed. And for a social person such as myself, having a sense of community and people who care for daily interactions helped to break down the norms of isolation and loneliness that are all too prevalent today.
Over the past century, living in a house as a nuclear family unit has become the standard in North America. A nuclear family is made up of a couple and their dependent children. The term nuclear is used, as it refers to the “core” unit of a family. Despite the fact that multi-generational family units within one house had previously been the standard for thousands of years, the nuclear family living situation has become the new normal. People often choose to live as a nuclear family due to the independence, privacy, and stability it provides. However, there are alternative living situations, such as co-housing, that have just as many benefits, if not more!
What is cohousing?
Co-housing is a concept that originated in Denmark in the 1960’s and was brought to North America in 1988. Co-housing neighbourhoods combine private dwellings with community living, creating an economic and socially beneficial living situation. It is common for residents in a co-housing neighbourhood to own their own individual homes which surround a “common house” where all residents are welcome. This common house contains shared amenities such as a kitchen, living area, dining room, laundry room, play areas, and more. While residents may choose to cook or spend time in their private homes, the common house allows for social gathering, shared meals, and shared divisions of labour when it comes to childcare or household duties. Multigenerational cohousing is the most common approach to this living arrangement. People of all different ages and stages of life make up the co-housing neighbourhood. Nuclear families, older couples, and individuals of varying ages live alongside each other, creating a community that can be likened to an extended family or village.
Social support and interaction
There are many advantages to living in a co-housing neighbourhood. The first and most obvious benefit is the social support and interaction that this living situation provides. Members of the co-housing community are able to interact and connect with each other in a way that can’t be found while living in a private dwelling. The communal spaces encourage neighbours to get to know each other, share meals, help each other out, and split household tasks and responsibilities. This encourages residents to form friendships and lifelong bonds. In addition, the multigenerational aspect of co-housing encourages many beneficial relationships. Older residents may avoid loneliness by being around others and even acting as “surrogate grandparents” to young children. Children benefit by interacting with and learning from a wide range of adults and elders with differing interests and lifestyles. Co-housing can also be a great opportunity for children from different households to play and grow up together.
Economic benefits of co-housing
Co-housing has many economic benefits as well. Having access to shared utilities reduces the needs of individual homes. Everything from furniture, to entertainment items, to hobby equipment can be reduced when it is already provided in the common house. This allows individuals to save on personal expenses without sacrificing their quality of life. Additionally, living in a connected community allows residents to trade skills, knowledge, time, and favours with each other. Instead of hiring a babysitter for the night, you may be able to enlist the help of your neighbour in exchange for helping them out with something you are skilled at.
How you can get involved
If you are interested in living in a co-housing community, there are plenty of online resources that can help you locate the perfect place to join! The Canadian Cohousing Network and CohoUSing are two great websites that can help inform you about cohousing, help you find communities near you, and give you tips on how to start a co-housing community yourself!
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