CoHousing is a housing development where homes are owned as condominiums, and where there are common spaces in addition to private units. Typically, in addition to a few dozen single family homes or condominiums, there is a common house that includes spaces for most of the residents to cook and eat dinner once a week together, as well as guest rooms spaces for children to play, and other commons space based on the needs and interests of residents. Often, the residents themselves are the ones who conceive of the project and become the project developers.
In Maine, there is a completed cohousing development in Bath (www.two-echo.org), and developments under construction in Buxton (www.greenswardhamlet.com) and Belfast (www.mainecohousing.org). All of these are new construction in suburban areas with lots of open space.
There are also urban models of cohousing. In Silver Spring, Maryland, Eastern Village Cohousing is a converted multi-storied building with a large courtyard, balconies, and green roof deck. Cambridge Cohousing is on a commuter line in a walkable location. In Portland, it could mean purchasing a few single or mulit family houses on contiguous lots, purchasing an apartment building with a courtyard, or building new construction in a location that is currently a parking lot or industrial site.
The unifying element is most often a large gathering space that can hold most of the people in the development, a practice of having optional group dinners once or more a week, and there is often, but not always, some value that is marketed up-front to homebuyers. Those values are often something like: we like to know our neighbors, we like to feel our kids are safe to play with other kids outdoors, we have a balance of privacy and community. Each group is free to choose whatever shared facilities or attitudes they wish.
Here are the advantages of Co-housing:
- Having something in common with your neighbors
- Having a way to get to know your neighbors
- Economic savings and higher quality of life by sharing seldom used or expensive spaces (guest rooms, large entertaining spaces, shop)
- Access to casual and spontaneous social interactions
- Possiblity of other positive neighborhood experiences- sharing of childcare, making friends, having a safe neighborhood.
You can learn more about cohousing developments nationally at www.cohousing.org.