Diva gives a clear and concise account of the benefits of cohousing, listing the ecological, social and financial benefits which are associated with it. Cohousing has been proven to be viable alternative to regular housing – one which is much more community focused and aims to bring people closer together. However, I do believe that there is potentially a negative side to the cohousing concept.
Upon visiting Lancaster, it was clear that we were entering a community. There were bikes and children’s toys lining the central walkway, something you wouldn’t usually find in a ‘normal’ street. However, because of this, I was slightly worried that we might be intruding on their personal space. Cohousing is about sharing and communal living, as Diva says it “improves social relationships based on trust, care and generosity”. Whilst this strengthens the community within the scheme, it poses the threat of developing an ‘inward-looking’ society. Diva and I, in our cohousing design for Housing Alternatives, included a public walkway through our cohousing site (see my blog on cohousing). This was ultimately to try and mitigate the seclusion and try and connect the ‘cohousers’ with the rest of the community.
Another concern I have is with the internal politics of managing a cohousing scheme. Whilst speaking to a couple of residents at Lancaster, it became clear that there was indeed conflict amongst residents. This is of course understandable, with around 50 adults living together, there is bound to be disagreements. Cohousing is built around the idea that there isn’t necessarily a hierarchy within the group, but I think this might not be the right solution. An elected panel who control oversee the management may be beneficial, as this allows everyone’s voice to be heard, but in a controlled manner.