Cohousing communities are typically multi-generational neighborhoods, which include private homes with access to common facilities such as recreation areas, gardens, dining facilities, and shared public spaces. These communities support the process of “aging in community” by offering an independent, but socially interactive lifestyle to older adults. According to the Cohousing Association of the United States, “They bring together the value of private homes with the benefits of more sustainable living. That means common facilities and good connections with neighbors.”
Cohousing communities generally have no official governing or managerial body. Legally and financially, cohousing communities are organized as condos, co-ops and homeowners’ associations. Concerns are addressed by community consensus, which allows the aging population to voice their opinions about services and living conditions, such as accessible features within their homes.
The services offered in cohousing communities can range from in-home health care to more basic needs such as help with cleaning or cooking. Cohousing communities promote independence by allowing aging adults to remain in their homes, while still providing opportunities for social interaction and access to nearby services.
Unfortunately, this type of innovative housing solution may faces local government regulatory barriers. Zoning barriers include that restrict the number of units on a parcel, limit the relationships of or number of occupants per unit, impose mandatory parking spaces, and inhibit shared spaces. Other obstacles include financing of this type of development and cost. Cohousing units can be as expensive as single-family residential homes.
Mid-Atlantic Cohousing (MAC), a non-profit regional resource for individuals seeking cohousing and for existing and developing cohousing communities, offers a comprehensive list of regional cohousing resources. MAC also has a book/DVD set called Building Sustainable Neighborhoods for Today’s Housing Market with information to learn more about developing and marketing cohousing.
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