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Co-Housing

by Marena KehlCohousing

Have you heard of cohousing? Cohousing is an idea which has been actualized throughout history, and currently flourishes in Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, and the United States. There is at least one successful cohousing community in Madison (at the corner of Mills and Mound Streets). A cohousing community is a group of families (including singles, single parents, couples — anyone defining themselves as a household) who unite around some set of principles or desires and create a physical community wherein there are separate family dwellings plus shared spaces and shared community upkeep. It is NOT communal living as financial resources are not shared and everyone continues to live their own private lives. Think of it as an intentional community of separate dwellings with a sharing of some common facilities and tools. Interested? Keep reading. A good book to peruse to see the range of communities and the process of creating these communities is Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett. Type “cohousing” into your search engine and you’ll come up with numerous web sites that explore the concept. Following is my own dream of a cohousing community — why I want to develop one, live in one, what I think it could accomplish, and what my dream community would look like. I want to live in a multigenerational community composed of singles, couples, and families; to know my neighbors, to know and enjoy others’ children and grandchildren. I want to share the necessary and dubiously enjoyable tasks of snow shoveling, leaf raking, lawn mowing, gutter cleaning. I would like to share creating and maintaining a beautiful flower garden. If there were space, I would be interested in a vegetable garden, too. Not being into “spartan,” I also want comfort, privacy, beauty, utility, and free time. I do NOT want to return to the shared housing of my college years. Ten houses in a row, with ten lawnmowers, ten snowblowers, ten washers, ten dryers, and ten of whatever else (probably ten to twenty cars) appalls me. Preserving energy resources, utilizing “green” methods of building construction, recycling, helping each other live more manageable lives excites me. The location of my dream home is flexible. Sometimes I think I would like a rural setting, and then I think about the energy consumed by commuting and I realize that building in rural areas is not always environmentally friendly. An urban setting would be fine, as long as there were lots of trees and green space. New construction or innovative remodeling of existing structures could satisfy me, too. Where is not the important issue for me; what the community would share — the common space — is very important to me. I would want a community kitchen and dining room/sit-around-Sunday-morning-reading-newspapers room (Just think! ONE subscription to the NY Times, one to the Milwaukee Sentinel, one to the Chicago Tribune, one to The State Journal and we would have contributed to cutting down only one tree instead of ten!), a shared library, a meditation room, a screened porch, a winter playroom for children, a noise-making room for teen-agers, a woodshop/repair shop, a “clean” craft/art/sewing room, a “messy” clay studio, two or three guest rooms, and, of course, a shared outside area. Other ideas include a common darkroom, hot tub, and/or sauna. Personal house space would include a small private outside patio/deck/garden area. An absolute must for me is an enclosed way to reach the common house. I do not want to have to go outside braving either snow or mosquitoes to reach what is functionally a part of my home. Another must is lots of light. While I am getting pretty specific here, please realize that this is my own dream. Others are eager to hear about your dreams. Co-Housing Websites: