Re: The Future of Cohousing
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2014 13:19:43 -0800 (PST)
On Jan 9, 2014, at 6:34 PM, Zev Paiss <Zev [at]> wrote:

> I would love to hear from the members of this list where you think cohousing 
> is headed in the next year or two. The challenges we have experienced since 
> 2007 have not changed all that much so if cohousing is going to grow we are 
> going to have to make it work in the new normal of constructed credit and 
> lower home values.

I don't know what the trends are but I see opportunities:

1. Move into conventional condominiums and homeowner associations with the 
ideas and attitudes of cohousing and physical redesign of existing buildings. 

Houses and apartments inside homeowners associations are the fastest growing 
type of residential housing. This is an almost unlimited "market." Eastern 
Village is a good example of a multi-floor conventional building retrofit that 
works physically as cohousing. Their CH is not even central inside the building 
-- it is dispersed. There is a central kids room, living room, and kitchen on 
the first floor but other facilities are spread throughout the 5 (?) storey 
building, even on the roof.

They used odd nooks for sitting areas with books, etc. on each floor, which 
breaks up the long halls and institutional feeling. Theirs was an office 
building but many condo buildings are the same style. One apartment on each 
floor could become the Common Area.

Buy a small rental apartment building and gradually convert it as new people 
move in. I see many complexes of 75-100 small units in 1-6 buildings for sale.

2. Perfect the small communities within a large communities model. 

Subdivisions are important to creating community in large buildings or 
communities. When you can't remember everyone's name or look around and 
instantly know who is missing, the group is too large to maintain an intimacy 
any deeper than a regular neighborhood with churches and libraries and 
recreation centers in common. But economically the larger communities are 
better and not just for economies in construction. Our managing agent says the 
tipping point for being able to afford to hire a professional full time manager 
is about 100 units. 

A large ecovillage is going up in Australia that will have several cohousing 
communities inside the ecovillage. Many condominiums are huge and could have a 
community on each floor with shared facilities on various floors. Governance 
and financial arrangements, behavioral expectations, etc. 

3. Special Interest Communities

Communities designed with extensive facilities that focus on specific 
interests: gardening, child raising, crafts, seniors broadly defined, 
bicycling, etc. A few acres of gardens and orchards will attract people who 
want to garden or to eat vegetables and cook. Extensive facilities for children 
will attract people with children, who want to have, adopt, or foster children, 
and those whose own children are grown fur want children around. Perhaps people 
whose children or grandchildren visit often. 

Communities for those over 50 without children for those who are ready for 
less-kid friendly activities. Even without 30-something activities. 

Bicycling facilities in an area with bike paths, etc. would attract those who 
share that passion, more or less.

Crafts facilities including ceramics, weaving, woodworking. Things that require 
specialized equipment and space. 

I don't think ideologically-focused works. Socially they lack diversity and 
claustrophobic. Who wants to live in their yoga studio or church or vegan cafe? 
It is also hard to keep life partners in such communities because one partner 
may not be a believer or practicing.

The religious communities usually have a leader who is an advocate and teacher 
and decides what is acceptable, either overtly or covertly, and that binds the 


I just thought of another one but forgot it. I'll send it later.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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