Co-housing is based on sharing and trading of housing space and resources depending on needs. For example, it permits neighbors to share kitchens, roof gardens, and office space. It also allows neighbors to trade rooms. Additionally, co-housing can be used to connect elderly people who need assistance with unemployed people who need income, and it re-defines concepts of public space from private space. Aside from the practicalities, co-housing can be used as a way to foster a sense of community and cohesiveness among neighbors, as well as the concept that a pooling of resources can save money, energy, and be more efficient.
Co-housing can include a time bank, where services are traded for space. For example, an elderly person needing household assistance can receive assistance from a low-income family in exchange for one room in his/her living space. Or a pregnant neighbor living on an upper floor can trade household assistance in exchange for the use of a ground-floor bedroom. The creation of a community office can free up a needed bedroom for a child. To make all of this work, doors can be added and walls can be made retractable.
It is gaining popularity in Europe. For example, in Spain, co-housing has taken shape in one city by re-designing high-density housing units. In England, it may resemble life on a commune. In addition, there are hundreds of successful projects throughout Germany, taking a variety of legal forms. Each co-housing community in Europe has a style: some are pro-environment, some are religious, some are senior-oriented, and some emphasize family and children. The possibilities are very broad.
Co-housing in the US, however, is somewhat different with a more structured environment with shared facilities, sometimes established as a condominium.
Our firm has represented co-housing committees for both developers and associations and can answer questions you may have regarding these arrangements. Feel free to call us at 248-644-4433 for a consultation.