What is Cohousing?

Cohousing is a powerful way to bring self-determination to your housing needs, to your relationships with your neighbors, and to the rhythms of your daily life. Cohousing is an intentionally designed neighborhood where people know each other and look after each other.

Cohousing began in Denmark in the 1970s and was brought to the United States in the late 1980s. There are approximately 165 cohousing communities in the United States and another 140 in formation.

Read Our Urban Cohousing Case Study Report

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What Is Included In A Cohousing Community?

Cohousing is the art of sharing resources to make life more enjoyable and more affordable. A form of intentional community, cohousing clusters private homes around shared space. Each home has traditional components, including a private kitchen.

Shared amenities typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area, laundry, rich landscapes, and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, open space, and gardens. Neighbors also share resources like tools, lawnmowers, or a wood shop.

Households have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbors collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces. Community activities feature regularly scheduled shared meals, meetings, and workdays. Neighbors gather for parties, games, movies, or other events. Cohousing makes it easy to form clubs, organize child and elder care, and carpool.

People who live in cohousing often do so out of a desire to belong to something larger than themselves, to give and receive support, to live rich lives, to live lighter on the planet, to avoid modern isolation and loneliness, to increase the depth and quality of their relationships, to have a sense of purpose, and to ground themselves in community so they can go out in to the world and do amazing things. They are rethinking housing models based on their own needs and not those of profit-oriented production builders.

Cohousing is a part of the solution to global challenges including climate change, poor urbanization patterns, rising cost of living, social isolation. People benefit by living in an environment that supports their health and improves their well-being.

To learn more about cohousing, visit the Cohousing Association of the United States website.

How does Caddis Collaborative work with cohousing communities?

Cohousing’s powerful opportunity for self-determination is the driving force behind Caddis Collaborative’s specialized work with cohousing communities, cooperatives, ecovillages, and other collective and innovative housing types. We are passionate about designing cohousing because we have seen and experienced firsthand the power of intentional living. Bryan Bowen, a principal architect at Caddis Collaborative, has lived in cohousing for the past 15 years, and one of the collaborative’s project architects, Stephen Eckert, lived in a community he helped to form.

We bring an adaptive and strategic approach to the design process rather than following a one-size-fits-all formula that results in communities that all look alike with residents who feel unheard. We hope that our projects reflect the personality of the people who will live in them and the environment in which they are built, creating a specialness and sense of place. We cater our services to your needs while still bringing to bear expertise in design and facilitation.

Wherever you’re located, Caddis Collaborative can help. For projects located in other parts of the country beyond Colorado’s Front Range and for those located internationally, we like to partner with a local architect to hand off our expertise and spread the movement.

Envisioning the Future

As you’re getting started, we can offer insight, inspiration, and advice – all ingredients that will help you envision your dream community.

Insight

We can help you learn about new, high-functioning housing typologies: pocket neighborhoods, intergenerational cohousing, senior cohousing, cooperative housing, ecovillages, baugruppen, tribal land communities, community land trusts, and cohousing-inspired communities to help you establish what’s “in the box” for your community

Inspiration

What can other project types learn from cohousing? Cohousing practices have great benefits and replicable strategies that can be applied to other project types. This includes cohousing-like affordable rental housing; inclusion of I Have a Dream magnet programs in your project; collaboration with Habitat for Humanity or other sweat-equity building programs; employee workforce housing; student or faculty housing; housing for neurodiverse individuals and those with intellectual and/or development disabilities; transitional housing for people experiencing homeless; transitional and supportive housing for veterans; or communities that reenvision foster care.

Advice

We’re available to help your forming community long before it’s time to hire professionals. We can help you strategize, work through a rough spot, or perform design review for your early ideas. Let us help you think through the best approach for bringing your communitarian and social justice goals to life. Don’t hesitate to reach out – we can be your sounding board.

Making the Future a Reality

When you’re ready to move forward with your project, we’re at your side with expertise in many facets of the project. We also provide referrals to the right professionals you’ll need – people who can help with group formation, facilitation, communication, development services, financing, project management, marketing, and more.

Site Selection and Feasibility

There are many questions to consider when selecting the site for your community – and we have the knowledge you need to help answer these questions. How do you find land when everything has become so expensive? Will the project you’re contemplating work on this property? Does it fit your project budget? Are there site characteristics that might make the project infeasible? Is the current zoning supportive of your use, or will you be facing entitlement challenges or neighbor opposition? Where are the pitfalls and deal breakers? Does the site have the right potential for what you want to do: is the area walkable, rich in services, or good for growing food?

Site Planning and Development Analysis

Once you’ve selected your site, there are a number of other considerations. We can map the regulatory constraints, conduct architectural fit tests, and assist with budgeting. We can help you build a knowledge base to prepare for participatory workshops and to ensure that the information going into the workshops is sound.

Workshops and Community Development

It’s critical to be able to convey to your future members what your project is all about so they know what they are signing up for. Caddis Collaborative offers an array of workshops that will assist you as you build and promote your community:

  • “Getting It Built” (ideally offered in collaboration with CoHousing Solutions or Wonderland Hill Development Company)
  • Site planning
  • Common house programming
  • Private home programming
  • Design closure
  • Public presentations (usually in conjunction with a scheduled workshop)

In addition to conducting the traditional cohousing workshops, Caddis will work to connect you with experts in facilitation, community building, communication, or other issues for trainings that will help community health and growth.

Educating Your Neighbors

Expanding the Movement

We enjoy working with local design professionals and spreading our knowledge. When working from afar, we prefer to have a local collaborator with boots on the ground. In that case, we provide workshops, conceptual design, and ongoing collaboration throughout the design and construction process, working seamlessly with the local team. To support this team on its next cohousing project, we offer a mentoring program that gives local professionals we’ve worked with access to us anytime.

Community Engagement

Outreach to neighbors, approval bodies, or the press can pave the way to getting broader community support. Caddis Collaborative can help you prepare graphic design and marketing materials that will help you tell your story and grow your community. You know your community is wonderful, but how do you convince the neighborhood or planning commission? As they judge your project, neighbors and city officials will have different criteria than you do, and you need to speak their language in order to ease or address their concerns. We’ll coach you on how to show them you’re advancing their expressed goals.

Entitlements and Approvals

Approvals can be a real threat to any cohousing community’s success, and it’s critical to understand the path before you strategically proceed. We have experience getting projects through the process in a wide variety of jurisdictions.

Ensuring Your Project’s Success

Project Schedules and Project Management Timelines

It’s important to get your arms around the basic framework and to understand the details and order of operations. We highly recommend hiring development consultants or project managers to help you along the way. We can introduce you to the right professionals.

Financial Modeling

Whether you’re going to be internally funded, working with a developer, using resources like Low-Income Housing Tax Credits or community land trusts, or innovating how your project is funded and owned, we can feed hard data into your model or model it for you.

Sustainability

Early on, we will collaboratively establish with you an “energy budget,” which we will also revisit for guidance at each phase. Some communities will struggle to meet already stringent codes. Some balance increases in construction costs with energy savings to be operationally cost-neutral. And others aspire to measure themselves against yardsticks like LEED, zero net energy, Passive House, WELL Building, or Living Communities Challenge. The most ambitious will go all the way to carbon neutrality. Regardless of the approach your community chooses, we have pragmatic experience and certifications that will inform your project.

Nurturing Your Community

It’s critical to be able to convey to your future members what your project is all about so they know what they are signing up for. Outreach to neighbors, approval bodies, or the press can pave the way to getting broader community support. Caddis Collaborative can help you prepare graphic design and marketing materials that will help you tell your story and grow your community.

Workshops

Caddis Collaborative offers an array of workshops that will assist you as you build and promote your community:

  • “Getting It Built” (ideally offered in collaboration with CoHousing Solutions or Wonderland Hill Development Company)
  • Site planning
  • Common house programming
  • Private home programming
  • Design closure
  • Public presentations (usually in conjunction with a scheduled workshop)

In addition to conducting the traditional cohousing workshops, Caddis will work to connect you with experts in facilitation, community building, communication, or other issues for trainings that will help community health and growth.

Let’s Work Together

Explore how we can bring your vision to life.

Get In Touch