Co-housing—A Movement That Creates Emotional Support and Affordable Housing

( Photo: A cohousing projects in Zurich)

Cities have been incredibly important to our economic development and made the distribution of resources, such as drinking water, much simpler and more economical. However, urban habitation also brings several challenges. For instance, the rising property values have made it nearly impossible for many young people to get onto the property ladder. Another growing concern is how urbanisation might affect our mental health status. Loneliness is sadly a fact of life for many urban indwellers.

A solution to this might be co-housing. Co-housing is when multiple people come together and live on a larger piece of land together. While so far, it might sound similar to apartments, there is a crucial difference: common spaces. Common spaces are areas intentionally designed to foster social relationships for residents with each other. Here, we will explore the topic of co-housing together with a specialist in the field, Greer O’Donnell from Urban Strategist. We will look at the challenges and benefits of co-housing as well as explore why it is growing in NZ.

The history of co-housing

The history of co-housing began in Denmark in 1964 (1). The idea was to build a more supportive living environment in the outskirts of Copenhagen (1). ‘Supportive’ means helping families with their potential challenges: social isolation. To achieve this goal, architects created shared spaces for the residents, such as vegetable gardens, playgrounds and most of all, a community building. This community building is often used as a library or a function room for music or workshops. A key aspect of utilising this community building is to share meals, in some communities three times per week.

Co-housing groups tend to be likeminded people. It can be people that want to have inclusive lifestyles, people with a fear of loneliness, people that share a common interest in a particular sport and many other possibilities. Though this doesn't mean everyone will turn into your best friend, what it does mean is you will be able to share things you enjoy doing with similar-minded people.

Loneliness in an urban setting

My wife and I were transferred to the UK just before the birth of our son. We completely underestimated how the social aspects of life change once you have a child. And we were lucky that there were a lot of young parents and baby groups in our neighbourhood, which allowed us to feel connected and supported during the early stage of parenthood.