A new alternative for affordable housing is on the rise across the United States. According to the Seattle Times, a growing number of Americans are seeking real estate refuse in cohousing communities.
Cohousing is an alternative living community that consists of private homes in a shared space or neighborhood. The community consists of private homes and, in many cases, a common house that includes a dining area, large kitchen, and laundry. Neighbors share parking, walkways, gardens, and resources like lawnmowers.
Cohousing provides families, singles, and seniors the ability to engage with a community while still living in their own private space. It’s also more sustainable and helps community members build strong interpersonal relationships.
“These are people who thought their lives would be more convenient if they made a cooperative new neighborhood,” said architect Charles Durrett.
Durrett, a partner at McCamant and Durrett Architects, had coined the term ‘cohousing’ 30 years ago. At the time, he believed only 1% of the U.S. population knew about cohousing as a lifestyle and only 2% of that initial 1% would be willing to make a plan.
But recently, that’s changed. “I’m busier than hell,” Durrett said.
The popularity with cohousing communities recently surged when a story about the Llano Exit Strategy circulated on social media. The Llano Exit Strategy, also known as Bestie Row, is a cohousing community created by a group of eight friends.
The friends purchased 10 acres of land in Texas and hired an architect to design four tiny-houses and a communal area. The tiny-houses, each 350 square feet, cost $40,000 each and were built with the environment in mind.
Rather than use conventional roofing products, which contribute approximately 20 billion pounds of waste to U.S. landfills every year, the tiny homes were built with butterfly roofs that capture rainwater. The rainwater is then recirculated around the property to help with water supply.
Other eco-friendly methods to install resources can also be used to make these cohousing communities that much more sustainable. For instance, directional drilling is not only eco-friendly but it also produces twice the amount of oil or gas that’s extracted compared to traditional vertical methods.
“Most of the cohousing groups realize that they can get by with a lot less space than our average 1,900 square foot house,” said Randy Proven, the project leader because Prairie Rivers Cohousing.
“[They] are living in a lot smaller spaces in their private spaces, but they enjoy the use of common space,” Proven said. “They basically try and share everything.”
Although cohousing communities are most popular with seniors, younger generations may also see the value behind them. Approximately one in four millennials is still living with their parents because of the inability to save money due to debt and the lack of affordable housing.
Cohousing communities are not only affordable, but they would give millennials the ability to start families, which many haven’t been able to do because of financial burdens.
“The community doesn’t choose the individuals,” Durrett said. “The individuals choose the community.”