Cohousing is a form of cooperative community that is resident developed and run and which combines individual dwelling places with the advantages of community living. Katie McCamant, co-author (with husband Chuck Durrett) of the book Cohousing - A New Approach to Housing Ourselves, likens cohousing to "a custom built neighborhood". Pioneered in Scandinavia, cohousing has caught on in the U.S. in recent years, with hundreds of active groups at various stages of the housing development process.
Participants at the first Madison, Wisconsin cohousing workshop, February 1991
Typically, individual households are located near a common house with shared facilities such as a dining/gathering room, big kitchen, and often a children's play room, workshop, laundry and guest rooms. Each home or apartment is self-sufficient with a complete kitchen, but shared meals are also available, as the group arranges.
Because of the shared facilities and amenities, each household does not require all of the space or possessions that might be found in a typical home. Residents find it natural to manage such things as buying food in bulk, arranging for children's playmates and sitters, and car-pooling. In this way cohousing facilitates environmental soundness and a strong sense of community.
Madison's Cohousing Communities In 1991, Design Coalition presented a series of workshops to 'jumpstart' cohousing in the Dane County, Wisconsin area. Several 'core groups' formed at the workshops and one of them, The Village Cohousing core group completed an urban cohousing project in Madison in 1999. In 2003 Design Coalition staff helped found a second project, Arboretum Cohousing, and went on to design the 40-unit development. In the interim, we also contributed to the neighborhood-wide planning process with site planning that paved the way for the Troy Gardens housing project.
An Historical Perspective
In Autumn 2009, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of cohousing in Madison, Wisconsin. For the event, Lou Host-Jablonski spoke to an audience of residents, advocates and would-be cohousers in the Arboretum Cohousing's common room. He gave an introduction to cohousing and a brief history of cohousing in Madison, from the first workshops organized by Design Coalition in the early 1990s through the three completed projects to date.
Check out Lou's two-part presentation to find out more about this community-centered way of living, and how it got started in Madison...
Part 1 describes the book by McCamant & Durrett, Danish cohousing roots, and the first cohousing in the United States.
Part 2 describes a few early cohousing projects in the U.S., then segues into the Madison workshops and three subsequent cohousing projects.
Cohousing Tools, including worksheets and design & planning aids from the workshops, are now available for download.