Tag Archives: Cohousing

Prairie Spruce Commons

Architectural Rendering Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing

Architectural Rendering Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing

Our current project is Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing in Regina, Saskatchewan, the first cohousing community in Regina. The rendering above is the final design.

The Community

Part of cohousing philosophy and design is to be more ecologically sustainable. By designing smaller private units and sharing common space and amenities we can reduce, among other things, our consumption of construction materials and energy for heating and cooling. Because cohousing is resident designed, the final product typically reflects the values of the community members. It also reflects the site on which it is located.

During several workshops with the architects and consultants we defined our values and desires for our home. Our desire to maximize natural light and have access to green space is reflected in the initial schematic design. This current design includes 27 private units, with full kitchens, varying in size from small bachelor suites to 2.5 bedroom suites.  All units are flat apartment style. The shared common space for community activities currently includes – a large common kitchen and dining room, workshop, children’s playroom, media/TV room, lounge, exercise room, office, sewing/craft room, common laundry, two guest rooms, garden space and outdoor terraces.


Prairie Spruce Commons is a cohousing community committed to building an apartment-style condominium intentionally designed to use resources wisely and to encourage cooperation as well as friendly interaction among residents and neighbors, individuals and families. This inclusive, safe and authentic community is one that respects, shares & cares.

Oak Creek Commons

Entrance to Oak Creek Commons

Oak Creek Commons in Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California is a 36-home cohousing neighborhood.

We found our beautiful land in October 1999. Construction started in 2003 with most of us moving in during 2004. Our final home was completed in the summer of 2005.

We are a community that fosters enriching relationships with one another, nature and the larger community.

Our Values

The Pool at Oak Creek Commons
It is our intention to:

  • Celebrate, accept and welcome diversity,
  • Communicate with integrity, respect and trust.
  • Support, encourage and be compassionate with each other.
  • Live in loving connection while respecting personal space.
  • Create opportunities for fun, laughter, play, celebrations and rituals.
  • Contribute time and talents within our community and beyond.
  • Respect the environment by being sensitive to the interconnections between all things.

Winslow Cohousing

Winslow Cohousing ExteriorWinslow Cohousing in Bainbridge, Washington includes 30 homes: 10 townhouse duplexes with 2, 3, and 4-bedroom homes; a fourplex with 1 and 2 bedroom townhouse homes; and the Carriage house with 6 flats of varied sizes. Homes range from 518 to 1500 square feet. Floor plans are similar throughout the village, and many homes have the capacity for some expansion. The duplex and fourplex homes have exclusive use areas (backyards) behind them, with all kitchens facing the walkways, courtyards, and green areas where children can play and neighbors can visit or stroll.

Environmental Concerns

Buildings are sited near each other and parking is located in one corner to preserve wooded areas and open space. Paved lanes connect all the homes, creating the pedestrian neighborhood. All construction is to strict energy-saving standards, and radiant floor heating is standard. Our refuse/recycle center and composting/worm bin projects are part of our care of the environment. Our landscaping uses drought-resistant, hardy, native species, edible by human or wildlife whenever possible. No fertilizers or toxic products are allowed on our land.

Common Spaces and FacilitiesWinslow Cohousing Interior

An integral part of the Cohousing concept is our centrally located 5,000 square foot community Common House. The Common House has dining and meeting space, a large kitchen, a recreation room for children, a fully equipped community office, a guest room, a quiet space, an exercise area, and a laundry for those who do not want laundry facilities in their homes. The orchard is flourishing near the large, sunny community garden. We also have an acre of woods, a children’s playground, a basketball area, a pottery studio, and a workshop.

Delaware Street Commons

Delaware Street Commons in Lawrence, Kansas, is composed of a diverse group of people, including singles, couples, families and retirees of varying ages and backgrounds. The community occupies 2.2 acres in the historic section of East Lawrence, within walking distance of the Lawrence Public Transit bus line and excellent public schools.

Jamaica Plain Cohousing

Jamaica Plain Cohousing Jamaica Plain Cohousing in Boston, Massachusetts, is committed to a mixed-income multigenerational cohousing neighborhood. They are located within walking distance to public transportation and near other urban amenities, such as schools, shopping,restaurants, places of worship and cultural attractions. They built a 30-unit neighborhood designed to create a balance of community and privacy, by arranging private, self-sufficient homes around a community building or “common house” with shared resources. The community was planned, designed and is now managed by the members. They welcome tours and maintain a healthy waiting list. Contact them at www.jpcohousing.org, by phone at (617) 522-2209, or by email at Info@jpcohousing.org

What Is Cohousing?

What is cohousing? is both a simple questions to answer and a varied answer. It is the result of a group of people who intentionally build a multi-family complex that becomes a neighborhood.    Each one is uniquely planned and developed, but there are many common characteristics.

Where Did It Start? What About Today?

Cohousing started in Denmark in the early 1979s when dual income professionals were searching for better daycare and a safer neighborhood. It has matured into an intergenerational mix of family types and is attractive to young families and single parents, as well as retired couples and singles. There are well over 200 projects completed in Denmark since the first was finished in 1972. In 2014, there are 111 built communities in the United States plus 22 under construction, 21 with purchased land, and others in various stages of optioning land and forming groups. A total of 221 known communities in 36 states.

Cohousing is a synthesis of several of the best features of multifamily housing and ranges in size from 12 to about 55 units. It is designed and often developed by the future residents and centered in the concept of balancing community and privacy as in an old fashioned village.

Because of limited government support for the early projects they have tended to be market-rate housing rather than low income. However, in Denmark much of the cohousing that is currently being developed is government sponsored rental or cost-controlled affordable ownership.

Essential Characteristics

While coho using developments vary in size, location, type of ownership, design, and priorities, the common characteristics are:

  • Participatory Process: Future residents participate in the planning and design of their community. They are responsible as a group for most of the final design and cost decisions.
  • Intentional Neighborhood Design: The physical design encourages a strong sense of community. With central pedestrian walkways or village greens, cars are generally relegated to the edge of the project, and sometimes to underground parking structures.
  • Private Homes & Common Facilities: Communities are generally designed to include significant common facilities, however, all residents also own their own private homes—with kitchens. As an integral part of the community, common areas are designed for daily use to supplement private living areas.
  • Resident Management: Unlike a typical condominium homeowners association, residents in cohousing usually manage their own community after move in, making decisions of common concern at regular community meetings.
  • Nonhierarchical Structure and Decision-Making: They say, “there are leadership roles, but not leaders in cohousing.” Decisions are made together, as a community, often using decision-making models such as consensus, or sociocracy.

Cohousing is NOT… There is no shared income in cohousing. Employment and business endeavors are privately organized. Common ideologies and charismatic leaders are generally not a part of cohousing. And of course, cohousing is not like a commune.

Design Considerations for Successful Cohousing

Cohousing is usually designed as clustered multifamily housing where each home is self sufficient, with private living, dining, and kitchen areas. Unlike housing built by a developer, a single cohousing project may have many unit types, ranging from studios to four or five bedrooms. And to avoid economic segregation, small and large units are interspersed. Cohousing is often designed with more compact and efficient living units in order to leave as much open space for natural areas, gardens, and recreation as possible.

Parking is segregated to the edge of the community, or possibly under the buildings, as at Trillium Hollow. Pedestrian circulation is designed to encourage interaction with neighbors. Private entries are located off pedestrian streets, pathways, and courtyards, allowing for a safe environment for children as well as gathering places for adults.

Smaller, more efficient private units accommodate a larger “common house” typically programmed to include daycare, laundry and dining facilities. Since prioritizing the common uses is done by the residents prior to construction, rarely does a common house include personal recreational uses. Residents often choose to include amenities such as a kitchen and dining area, children’s play areas, a library or lounge, and workshop facilities.


As a matter of legal and financial convenience, most cohousing communities in North America have chosen the condominium legal ownership structure, known as strata title in Canada. This is due, primarily, to the expectations of lenders. For most people it’s important to make sure that you can get a mortgage.

Many would prefer to be organized as cooperative housing associations, since this tends to be more consistent with the goals of shared resources and the experience of community. A small number of groups have successfully adopted the cooperative ownership structure when they were able to locate the required financing.

Winslow Cohousing and the first two neighborhoods at the Ecovillage in Ithaca are the only cooperatively owned cohousing communities that we are aware of in the United States.

Books on Cohousing

The Essential Books

Cover of Cohousing HandbookCohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community by Chris ScottHanson (Second edition 2004, with Kelly ScottHanson)

One of the earliest and most respected book on cohousing by the designer of the first cohousing communities in the United States. A hands-on guide to building cohousing, this practical manual will give you the basics you need to know to get your Cohousing group off the ground and built.

This book is a guide, a manual, and a source of comfort and inspiration for those who want to create their ideal community. Cohousing is our opportunity to build a better society, one neighborhood at a time.

The Cohousing Handbook covers every element that goes into the creation of a cohousing project including:

  • Group Processes
  • Construction
  • Finances and Budgets
  • Land Acquisition
  • Design Considerations
  • Permits and Approvals
  • Marketing and Membership
  • Working with Design and Development Professionals


Cover of Pocket Neighborhoods by Ross ChapinPocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World by Ross Chapin, Architect.

Pocket Neighborhoods are small-scale neighborhoods where empty nesters single householders, and families can find friendship and a helping hands nearby, and where children have shirt-tail aunt and uncles across the yard. Stories of the people who live there, as well as the progressive planners, innovative architects, pioneering developers, craftspeople and gardeners who helped create them.

Presents the history of shift in the scale of communities over several generations to super-sized houses in seas of development and presents his solution to restore healthy, livable communities. Surveys the pocket neighborhood precursors in history and contemporary equivalents:  New Urban communities, affordable housing, houseboat communities, eco-neighborhoods, and pocket neighborhoods. Full discussion of cohousing in Denmark, America, Australia, and New Zealand. Senior cohousing. Retrofitting neighborhoods.  Highlights the essential principles of pocket neighborhood planning and design, and anecdotes about personal experiences. Photographs, drawings, illustrations and site plans, and a further resources .


Cover of Creating CohousingCreating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett.

The cohousing “bible” by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett, award-winning architects who introduced the concept of cohousing to the United States in their first book Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. Katy and Chuck have designed more than fifty cohousing communities in the United States and consulted on many more around the world. They founded The Cohousing Company: McCamant & Durrett Architects. They are credited in the Oxford English Dictionary for creating the word “cohousing” from “cooperative” and “housing,” in their 1988 book, Cohousing. (This book is out of print but worth a trip to ABE Books to find a used copy.)


Cover of Senior CohousingThe Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living, by Charles Durrett, 2nd Edition

The latest title in the essential readings on cohousing covers the fastest growing type of cohousing — communities for aging Baby-Boomers and others. These over-55 communities are often created next door to a more typical multigenerational cohousing community. These communities are built by the future residents and designed to meet their needs, not those households with children.

Senior cohousing is for the healthy, educated, and proactive adults who want to live in a social and environmentally vibrant community. Custom-built neighborhoods organized for health, longevity, and quality of life.

Senior Cohousing is a comprehensive guide to joining or creating a cohousing project. The author deals with all the psychological and logistical aspects of senior cohousing and addresses common concerns, fears, and misunderstandings. He emphasizes the many positive benefits of cohousing, including:

  • Better physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health
  • Friendships and accessible social contact
  • Safety and security
  • Affordability
  • Shared resources

Types of Communities

There are many types of communities. Some develop organically in neighborhoods and apartment buildings, some retrofit abandoned or neglected spaces in cities, and others design and build new buildings. Most are interested in building a community that is as green and sustainable as feasible.

We focus on developing new communities in collaboration with groups of people who intentionally come together to develop and build communities. We help groups accomplish their dreams.

Some of the types of communities are described below, with links to additional information. There is also information on the Resources on Cohousing page.

Cohousing Communities

Cohousing provides the privacy we are accustomed to within the community we seek.

Cohousing is a type of intentional, collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design, operation, and management of their neighborhoods. It is composed of private homes supplemented by shared facilities. Common facilities might include a kitchen, dining roomlaundrychild care facilities, offices, internet access, guest rooms, and recreational features. Cohousing communities strive to be intergenerational and socio-economic and ethnically diverse.


An Ecovillage is an “… intentional community whose goal is to become more socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable. Most range from a population of 50 to 150 individuals, although some are smaller, and larger ecovillages of up to 2,000 individuals exist as networks of smaller sub-communities. Certain ecovillages have grown by the addition of individuals, families, or other small groups, who are not necessarily members, settling on the periphery of the ecovillage and effectively participating in the ecovillage community.”

Collaborative Communities

A collaborative community, like Cohousing, is a type of intentional housing in which residents actively participate in the design, operation, and management of their neighborhoods. They develop in more diverse ways both socially and physically. They sometimes have particular beliefs and goals as a community and feature many more types of living styles than cohousing, including shared houses, less clustered dwellings, and experimental architecture. They do not generally provide shared facilities.

Pocket Neighborhoods also called Cottage Neighborhoods

A pocket neighborhood is a grouping of smaller residences, often around a courtyard or common garden, designed to promote a close-knit sense of community and neighborliness with an increased level of contact. Architect Ross Chapin partnered with The Cottage Company founder Jim Soules to build the first contemporary pocket neighborhood. Considerations involved in planning and zoning pocket neighborhoods include reducing or segregating parking and roadways, the use of shared communal areas that promote social activities, and homes with smaller square footage built close to one another (high density). Environmental considerations often play a role in the planning of pocket neighborhoods, and those advocating them promote their design as an alternative to the sprawl, isolation, expense, and commuter and automobile focus of many larger homes in suburban developments.

Welcome to Urban Cohousing

Chris working with Bay State Commons in Malden MA.

Chris ScottHanson working with Bay State Commons members in Malden MA.


“Our group was about to dissolve until we found Chris ScottHanson of Urban Cohousing Associates. He started speaking at 9:00 am. By 10:00 my husband and I had agreed to become equity members.”  Founding Member, JP Cohousing

Urban Cohousing Associates specializes in front end project planning — local area preference mapping, site search, and land acquisition. We usually do budgeting and scheduling as a part of initial project feasibility evaluation, to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Why Urban Cohousing Associates?

We believe the best place to develop housing is within the existing urban grid of the city or small town. This may include the suburbs but it should, in our opinion, use an existing grid including sewer, water, and fire department access. Building out beyond the grid is costly — too costly financially for communities and too costly environmentally for everyone.

Creating Communities Since 1989

Since 1989, we have successfully located and acquired development sites for communities in Vermont, Massachusetts, Texas, Kansas, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.


Urban Cohousing Associates • PO Box 1288 • Langley, WA 98260
Phone: (206) 601-7802 • Email: cscotthanson@mac.com

© Urban Cohousing Associates, 2014