What Is it?

If you’re not familiar with the term “cohousing” or “co-housing,” your first question is probably “What on earth IS it?” Well, there’s no standard answer to that question that holds true always and everywhere, because cohousing communities aren’t all identical. Even so, cohousing communities tend to share common characteristics that serve to distinguish cohousing from other types of collaborative housing:

Rooftop Garden at Capital Hill Urban Cohousing Photo by Schemata Workshop

Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each attached or single family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area and recreational spaces. Shared outdoor space may include parking, walkways, patios, and gardens. Neighbors can also share resources like internet and and gardening tools.

Households have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbors collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces. The legal structure is typically an HOA, Condo Association, or Housing Cooperative. Community activities feature regularly-scheduled shared meals, meetings, and workdays. Neighbors gather for parties, games, movies, or other events. Cohousing makes it easy to have spontaneous group activities, organize child and elder care, and share resources.

Common Characteristics


  • Neighbors commit to being part of a community for everyone’s mutual benefit.
  • Cohousing cultivates a culture of sharing and caring.
  • Design features and neighborhood size (typically 20-40 homes) promote frequent interaction and close relationships.

Privacy and Community

  • Cohousing neighborhoods are designed for privacy as well as community.
  • Residents balance privacy and community by choosing their own level of engagement.


  • Decision making is participatory and often based on consensus.
  • Self-management empowers residents, builds community, and saves money.

Shared Values

  • Cohousing communities support residents in actualizing shared values.
  • Cohousing communities typically adopt green approaches to living.

Thanks to the Cohousing Association of the United States for providing an initial list of cohousing characteristics, which we’ve edited to fit our particular needs. Any mistakes, typos, etc., are ours at RC, not anybody else’s.