Cohousing Trend Emerges in United States

Technological advancements are connecting people around the world in ways never before possible, but as everyday life gets busier and people are opting to live alone, individuals are finding themselves caught in a new wave of social isolation. To combat this sense of isolation, people are gravitating toward an emerging trend called cohousing that aims at balancing both privacy and community.

Cohousing is a form of shared living that brings private homeowners together to share common spaces, such as kitchens, gardens, laundry facilities, as well as a set of principles and practices about living interdependently. Each individual, couple or family can enjoy the privacy of their own furnished spaces, while building relationships with their neighbors in the common areas.

After originating in Denmark in the 1970s, cohousing reached the United States in the early 1990s. Currently, there are 165 cohousing communities nationwide and 140 developments being planned. Built to survive in both rural and urban settings, cohousing communities vary in structure, due to varied budgets and home size.

For baby boomers that are looking to downsize their home but don’t want to give up community life, cohousing is an appealing option. Cohousing provides as much privacy and independence as needed, while also offering social opportunities.

The baby boomer generation is driving the trend, but millennials are adapting quickly too. After experiencing co-op living in college, millennials are starting their families now and are accustomed to shared living, which supports many of cohousing’s guiding principles. With green living a priority for this generation as well, cohousing offers many sustainable advantages that can help reduce a family’s carbon footprint, such as driving less, walking more and staying within the community to socialize. In addition, young homeowners who live in more expensive cities may find communal meals to be a cost-effective way to cut down on costs.

What does this mean for the construction industry though? Developers, architects and builders can learn from the design principles of cohousing that prioritize both human experience and privacy. From a design standpoint, structural factors like sound control and space optimization will be a priority. Finding ways to create common areas that foster community while also giving individuals the privacy they desire will be the ongoing challenge.

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