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What is cohousing?

January 2019

Continuing our series examining key community-led housing concepts, we look at cohousing as an alternative to more conventional projects.

Back to Basics in Community-Led Housing: What is cohousing?

Cohousing is the creation of an 'intentional community', a group of people who come together to create and run an environment which supports communal living. As such cohousing groups often develop around a central common house or common area in which the community can come together to support one another. Like the broader term of community-led housing, cohousing is not a legal structure in itself.

How does cohousing differ from conventional housing?

Cohousing aims to put the interests of the group as a whole ahead of the interests of any individual. In doing so, the aim of cohousing is to ensure that all of its members are cared for. Whilst each member of the cohousing community has their own private home, the collaborative nature of the cohousing community aims to bring those living within it together to support one another, whether that be through a community lunch, allotments on site or through the shared maintenance of grounds and shared areas of the development.

How are cohousing communities established?

As cohousing communities have a primary aim of supporting all of their members, legal structures which reflect this aim are best suited to cohousing groups. Cohousing groups can establish as co-operative societies, which are required to act for the benefit of their members (i.e. the residents of the cohousing community) and to be governed in a democratic manner. Cohousing communities can also incorporate as companies limited by guarantee with rules specifically designed to facilitate the nurturing of the co-housing community. Concepts such as decision-making by consensus (obtaining agreement to decisions from all stakeholders) can be introduced if appropriate, to facilitate the development of the intentional community throughout the project.

You can find the first article in the series, which discusses Community Land Trusts, by clicking here.

For regular updates, sign up to our CLH mailing list and receive a free copy of our Guide to Legal Structures for Cohousing.

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Peter Parker

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Nick Dunn

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