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Cohousing
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Cohousing

A Cohousing community is a kind of intentional community composed of private homes, complete with full kitchens, supplemented by extensive common facilities. A cohousing community is planned, owned and managed by the residents, groups of people who want more interaction with their neighbours. Common facilities vary but usually include a large kitchen and dining room where residents can take turns cooking for the community. Other facilities may include a laundry, child care facilities, offices, game room, tv room, tool room, and a gym. Through spatial design and shared social and management activities, cohousing facilitates interaction among neighbours, for the social and practical benefits. There are also economic and environmental benefits to sharing resources, space and items.

Because each cohousing community is planned in its context, a key feature of this model is its flexibility to the needs and values of its residents and the characteristics of the site. Cohousing can be urban, suburban or rural. The physical form is typically compact but varies from low-rise apartments to townhouses to clustered detached houses. They tend to keep cars to the periphery which promotes walking through the community and interacting with neighbors as well as increasing safety for children at play within the community. Shared green space is another characteristic, whether for gardening, play, or places to gather.

There are over 65 operating communities in North America with about 200 others in the planning phases. There are also communities in Australia, the UK and other parts of the world.

Cohousing differs from some types of intentional communities in that the residents do not have a shared economy or have a common set of beliefs or religion. Models of consensus democracy are usually involved in managing co-housing. Individuals do take on leadership roles, such as being responsible for coordinating a garden or facilitating a meeting.

Legal ownership in a cohousing community uses existing legal forms of real estate ownership that may include individually titled houses with common areas owned by a homeowner association, condominiums or a housing co-operative however cohousing differs because of the emphasis on the social relationships among its residents.

The modern theory of cohousing originated in Denmark in the 1960s among groups of families who were dissatisfied with existing housing and communities that they felt did not meet their needs. It was introduced to North America by two American architects, Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, who visited several cohousing communities and wrote a book about it, . Several cohousing communities exist in Denmark and the west coast of the U.S.A, especially California.

Historically, most people lived in dwellings with their extended families - the single family home was for upper and upper-middle classes. Thus, the idea is very old, but the idea of choosing such housing when one can afford more space and separate facilities for each immediate family is more associated with the 1960s.

Some elements of the Jewish Renewal at that time for instance encouraged the interconnection of basements among neighbours, to create common shared space useful especially for celebrations. Each house would however remain separate and have doors to keep it separate from its neighbour.

Eco-feminism is particularly supportive of co-housing due to child care convenience and the immediate availability of mutual support in cases of spousal abuse including verbal abuse. In effect, the cohousing can act as a women's shelter, especially if the females exclusively hold ownership rights - as in the traditional Huron or Iroquois longhouse which were more or less run by the elder women.

The Eden Alternative nursing home and the rural eco-village embrace cohousing as well, but with specific assumptions about the Ecological Footprint and desirability of multi-generation circles to run things. In combination, they approach eco-anarchism or New Tribalism, and transcending housing itself as an issue.

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