What is cohousing?
Cohousing is a form of housing that offers residents the opportunity to get to know their neighbors very well and develop a strong sense of community, which is often absent in contemporary cities and suburbs. By participating in the planning and design of various aspects of their housing development, residents form the bonds that are the basis of ongoing community. Cohousing emphasizes a supportive, intergenerational community, and members of a cohousing group generally come together around a shared vision and values.
Cohousing communities consist of private, fully-equipped homes and extensive common amenities including a common house and recreation areas. They are designed and managed by the who have chosen to live in a close-knit neighborhood that seeks a healthy blend of privacy and community.
In addition to the obvious social advantages of living near friends, residents may have more free time because many of the routine activities of life can be shared; such as dinners or gardening and yard work. Expensive and/or rarely used tools and recreational equipment purchased by the group can be available to all. Car-pooling is easier to arrange.
How is cohousing different from a condominium development?
Legally, a cohousing community functions just like any other condominium development. It will have a homeowners' association, shared grounds and common facilities. However, cohousing is also different from ordinary condominium developments in that the people who buy units in cohousing have a strong interest in building relationships and interacting with their neighbors in the spirit of community.
Who lives in cohousing?
Those attracted to cohousing tend to be people who have thought about this idea of creating community long before they heard the term cohousing. They tend to be people seeking to improve their quality of life and are willing to help others do the same. People who choose to be a part of a cohousing community come from a variety of backgrounds, income levels, family types and beliefs. What they do have in common is a desire to have a say in how their neighborhood will be and a belief that having more connection with their neighbors will be good for them. In our Fresno community you will see evidence of a sensitive attitude towards the natural environment, reduced home size, sharing of resources and community recycling.
What are the defining characteristics of cohousing?
Washington Village has many of the characteristics of cohousing. However, the bulk of our property maintenance is handled more like a regular condo and we have employed a property manager to handle bookkeeping and help us manage operations.
PARTICIPATORY PROCESS. Residents participate in some aspects of the design and maintenance of the community so that it meets their needs.
NEIGHBORHOOD DESIGN. Most of the residences are clustered around the main courtyard or central walkways to increase opportunities for chance encounters among neighbors.
COMMON FACILITIES. Common facilities are designed for daily use, are an integral part of the community, and are always supplemental to the private residences. In addition to having a large kitchen and dining room for community meals and meetings, we will have an art room, woodworking/bike repair shop, meditation space, library, a community garden, a couple of multi-purpose spaces for things like exercise or childcare, two laundry rooms, two guest suites, and three sitting areas for tea time, book club, and other casual gatherings. Some of our common space is in the historic school building, and the rest will be in the Broadway building.
RESIDENT MANAGEMENT. Cohousing communities are managed by their residents, with teams that manage different aspects of operations. Residents participate in common meals, and meet regularly, usually once a month, to develop policies and do problem-solving for the community.
NON-HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE AND DECISION-MAKING. Cohousing communities have leadership roles, but no one has authority over others. Member take on one or more roles consistent with their skills, abilities or interests. Decisions are made through a consensus decision making process that allows for proposals to be improved by addressing objections.
How does cohousing differ from other kinds of shared living/intentional communities?
Cohousing is a unique blend of private homes and shared facilities within a custom-designed neighborhood. Our community has no political, religious, or ideological orientation. Financially and legally, cohousing is the same as a condo association. You can live privately within a cohousing community, but most members choose to participate for the social benefits. If you simply value having a sense of community among your neighbors, you will fit in.