Co-Housing: A New Option?

Ilana E. Strauss:

What do you think of these ideas about co-housing?

Instead of limiting their households to children, parents, and grandparents, plenty of people are going a step further, making homes with friends and even strangers. Cohousing, in which a large community lives together and shares household duties, is gaining popularity. In cohousing, individuals or families generally have their own houses, bedrooms, or apartments but share things like kitchens and community spaces. They’ll commonly trade off on responsibilities like cooking and chores. Milagro Housing, for instance, is a cohousing community located in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. There, families, couples, and single people live in 28 homes in a tight-knit community that shares a kitchen, laundry room, library, meeting room, playroom, and storage rooms. …

Cohousing models can get pretty creative. In Hope Meadows, a neighborhood near Chicago that DePaulo describes in her book, retired people live together with at-risk foster kids. There, retired folks, many of whom used to describe their lives as boring and lonely, raise the kids together. And in Deventer, a town in the eastern region of the Netherlands, that model is flipped: Some college students there live in nursing homes alongside elderly people, who they socialize with and assist with various chores. …

DePaulo argues that it would be particularly helpful to integrate cohousing into public-housing policy. “People who work on housing for the poor have to deal with people’s whole lives,” she argues in her book. “They can’t just give them a place to live and forget about them.” Keeping rent affordable is the foremost concern for people in charge of managing public housing, but cohousing can fill in other difficulties of living without much money: Splitting cooking, childcare, and household expenses can save lots of time and money. For these reasons and others, Danish and Swedish governments have long supported cohousing. American governments (especially local ones) could do the same, perhaps by converting abandoned hotels into mixed-income cohousing, building affordable shared-living buildings, or even just by connecting interested locals and helping them refashion their neighborhoods into something that better fosters community.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.