What is co-housing?
Shared living, working or housing has always been of public interest. The co-housing concept arose in Denmark in the sixties, when individuals came together to buy a plot of land and build homes centred around shared communities. Now co-housing is on the rise in the UK where individuals want their own private space but seek the security and connection of a community.
Residents who choose to live in these communities have self-contained homes and independent incomes but benefit from shared facilities and communal activities such as group meals, meetings, and maintenance programmes. Both the architectural layout and the broad principle of co-housing projects are designed to encourage regular interactions and the formation of close bonds between their members. Some co-housing communities are based in new purpose-built houses and can range from 10 households to around 40, all with the idea that residents create and run their communities with no additional help is sort to manage or maintain the facilities. Co-housing started to gain momentum in the UK at the end of the 1990s, and there are now 19 built co-housing communities – with a further 60+ co-housing groups currently developing projects.
In addition, co-housing among the UK’s older demographic is becoming increasingly popular. In North London, Older Women’s Co-Housing, a £7 million development made up of 25 flats, has a long waiting list and is among 20 other known co-living communities across the country. As this trend helps to demonstrate, it is clear that large sections of the baby boomer generation are seeking their own independence, but still crave the connection and community offered by these projects.
So, what’s the catch? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons…
Pros of co-housing.
- Sense of community:
Many choose co-housing for a greater quality of life. Buying into a real and active community way of living enables individuals to choose to share space with their neighbours and really get to know them. This provides a real connection for residents and helps to combat the epidemic of loneliness and isolation that many people are facing in the 21st century.
The close neighbourhood environment can provide people with a sense of security. Coming home to know there is someone who will be there for you in times of need offers a great deal of reassurance. Having a close neighbourhood provides a sense of security. It also means that you can own your own home with private space and car parking, but have none of the negatives of noisy traffic associated with big city living.
- Reduced costs:
Co-housing can often be a more affordable way of living, especially at a time of increasingly expensive housing. Sharing resources like appliances can often save money – for example, gardens where residents can share tools or sheds and as well as sharing gardening duties. In addition to reducing costs, co-housing can also often be more environmentally friendly as energy and water usage are pooled.
Cons of co-housing.
- No specialist care or support:
Perhaps the biggest downfall of co-housing is that, at the time of writing, we are not aware of any that offer on-site care or support. Having no option of additional care if and when needed could mean that choosing this option in later life may only suit your needs temporarily and causes individuals to move from their homes once again, potentially only a few years after entering the co-housing community.
- Lack of privacy and alone time:
A strong co-housing community can come with the expectation to participate. While undoubtedly helping to keep residents engaged and connected, this may cause individuals to feel pressured and unless the balance of private and shared spaces within the environments is carefully thought through, it could feel invasive. An environment which is too large can cause a sense of community to diminish and could increase social isolation rather than reducing loneliness.
- Community decisions and commitment:
The power of the collective in action means that decisions are made on a group basis. Though they benefit the community as a whole, these decisions may not always be the best to suit your specific, individual needs. The commitment of sharing communal duties or workload may also be too much for some individuals who have limited mobility or a disability.
What do you think?
As with all housing choices, it is an incredibly personal decision. Your aspirations, needs, wants – as well as practical considerations, such as personal finances and proximity to friends and family – will all influence the choice you make. Co-housing is able to offer a radical new approach to housing and looks to solve some of the big questions we face around the use of resources and remaining connected. But, as we have seen, it can pose a challenge for those in later life as well.
Do you think it is a good addition to the housing options that are on offer? Would you move into a co-housing community (or maybe have already)? Let us know in the comments below!