February 7, 2013

Co-Housing – Turning Apartment Living into a Communal Experience

Imagine living in a neighborhood where you—as a resident—will have the autonomy to design and operate your own neighborhood.

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Within this neighborhood design, residents live and interact with one another through access to extensive common facilities such as an open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house. This enriched social environment is known as co-housing. Currently, there are several co-housing developments in the U.S., including seven within Virginia. Co-housing communities are usually designed as attached or single family homes along one or more pedestrian streets, or clustered around a courtyard.  Although they range in size from seven to 67 residences, the majority of these neighborhoods are made up of 20 to 40 households. Regardless of the neighborhood’s size, community members are expected to take care of and use common property located within the development. This shared responsibility and usage creates opportunities for social interaction.

Co-housing in Greater Richmond

Recently, an event was held in the Greater Richmond area to provide a platform for people to thoughtfully discuss how co-housing can improve the quality of life in the immediate Richmond area. While there were no finalized plans to develop a project, there seems to be some interest in possibly developing a project within the Old Manchester area in proximity to public transportation. During the discussion, The ElderSpirit Community in Abingdon, was highlighted as a case study. This housing development was built by the Federation of Community in Service (FOCIS) to create a co-housing community that offers support and late-life spirituality for those 55 years of age and over. Throughout the development phase, an advisory board, architects, prospective residents and the Trailview Development Corporation shared their input with the development. This VHDA-financed development was completed in 2006 with 29 mixed-income housing units.

Why co-housing?

Living in this cooperative community offers a healthy balance of privacy with the option of being able to participate in daily or weekly activities. Co-housing also creates an environment that fosters sustainable multi-generational communities. In order to deal with the growing complexities of the housing environment, a myriad of tools will continue to be important.  Co-housing is one of many options that can contribute to reducing energy consumption, enabling the creation of sustainable alternative transportation, and incorporating ways to address the concerns for aging in place.  For more information, check out http://www.cohousing.org/.

What is your experience with co-housing?

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