The second semester of MAUD has introduced myself (and many of the other students) to the concept of cohousing. In this blog, I will discuss what cohousing is and how it is becoming an integral part of community-led housing. I will also discuss my experience upon visiting my first cohousing scheme in Lancaster and what the most important lesson I learned from the residents there was.
What is it?
Cohousing is a movement which sees the intentional development of a new community that is designed, created and ran by its residents (UKCohousing, 2017). Usually consisting of smaller but high-quality houses, the schemes include many communal facilities such as garden space, living rooms, kitchens and dining rooms, which is why it is important to know your fellow ‘cohousers’ before committing. Residents often have similar ethos – i.e have similar ecological and environmental views, believe in sustainable travel and ultimately enjoy the idea of living in a communal setting with a degree of privacy. Many believe that cohousing is a new phenomenon, however the idea has been around since the 1960s (Chiodelli & Baglione, 2013). Having initiated in Northern Europe, and then on to North America by the 1980s, today cases of cohousing can be found all around the globe (see Adem Altunkaya’s blog on Kyodo No Moir in Japan). There are many co-housing schemes (many of which have not yet come to fruition), across the UK as it is increasingly being deemed a viable alternative to housing amidst this ‘housing crisis’ we find ourselves in today.
As part of the Housing Alternatives module, we visited a very well respected co-housing scheme in Lancaster. Immediately, it was clear that the entire site was a shared ‘home’ as there were children’s toys, gardening equipment and bicycles lining the central walkway which connected all of the homes. We were greeted by a woman who would show us around the site and discuss what it was like to live in a cohousing scheme. We, as a class, cooked a meal for some of the residents and ate with them whilst asking them questions about the life of a cohouser. This was the most valuable part of the trip in my opinion as we got to understand the lives of a cohouser, how decisions were made, who oversaw what and how they dealt with conflict. Although its perhaps difficult for an urban designer to physically represent this through their practical work, it is important to recognise the political community that is in place.
Lancaster Cohousing – A very homely little street connecting all of the homes (reShaped, N.D)
Chiodelli. F & Baglione. V, 2013. “Living together privately: for a cautious reading of cohousing”, Journal of Urban Research and Practice, Vol. 7 (1), pp. 20-34.
UK Cohousing, 2017. Uk Cohousing. [Online]
Available at: https://cohousing.org.uk/
[Accessed 29 April 2017].
reShaped, N.D. Lancaster Cohousing Ecohomes. [Online]
Available at: http://reshaped.uk.com/wordpress/portfolio/lancaster-cohousing-ecohomes/
[Accessed 29 April 2017].