Community 2.0:

Is Cohousing the Future of Urban Design?

What is cohousing?

Cohousing communities are communities organised collaboratively. Residents have their own private spaces but band together to share meals and facilities, organise activities and look out for each other.

The focus is on community. All that’s required is a neighbourhood where people want to band together, take care of one another and collaborate for the good of all.

How big are cohousing communities?

Illustration of household

It varies, but most in the UK range from 10-40 households.

Illustration of placards showing symbols to represent women and seniors

Some communities are for women or seniors only.

Illustration of a group of different people

Most are mixed, with single people, couples, children and elderly residents.

What cohousing communities might share

Scene showing things people might share, including gardening tools and child-minding.


Cleaning + Maintenance Duties


Communal Gardens

Swimming Pools


Scene showing things people might share, including micro renewable-energy schemes and skills workshops.

Common House with guest bedrooms and space for entertaining

Micro-Renewable Energy Schemes


Communal Kitchen (in addition to private kitchens in each residence)

Laundry Facilities

Efficient Heating/Cooling Units



Scene showing things people might share, including office spaces and car-sharing.

Gym/Yoga Studios


Music Studios

Office/Art/Performance Spaces



Pooling resources cuts costs and reduces need for individual investments.


Conscientious design ensures residents have secure communal space to socialise & play in.


Sharing increases efficiency and reduces waste.


Communal efforts and investments save money and improve quality of life.


Residents manage their own housing and community needs.


Close-knit communities tend to be safe and healthy.

Who is cohousing?

icon representing the elderly

The elderly

As an option to avoid isolation or conventional senior housing.

icon representing single people

Single people

Who want a sense of community and support.

icon representing families


Seeking supportive environments in which to raise children while juggling professional lives.

icon representing the environment

The environmentally conscious

Who want to reduce their footprints through collaborative living.

A contemporary crisis of community?

"Cohousing is a way of combating the alienation and isolation many experience today, recreating the neighbourly support of the past."

- UK Cohousing Network

Isolation in the UK


of Brits don't know their neighbours

1 in 3

Live alone


of adults worry about their parents being lonely


of over-65s worry about being a burden on their children


of elderly are in contact with family, friends, and neighbours less than once a week



elderly people say TV is their main companion

1 in 5

wish their children lived closer

Community is healthy

Living alone increases risk of depression by 80% for working-age people.

Isolation increases risk of dementia and heart attack.

Isolated individuals are more likely to smoke and be obese, and less likely to exercise regularly.

Those who live alone are
2-3x less likely to survive a heart attack.

In terms of reducing overall health, loneliness is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

Design schemes

Some possible layouts of houses and common house
Representation of a cohousing area, each comprising individual homes and a common house.
Representation of a cohousing area, each comprising individual homes and a common house.
Representation of a cohousing area, each comprising individual homes and a common house.
Representation of a cohousing area, each comprising individual homes and a common house.
Representation of a cohousing area, each comprising individual homes and a common house.


Zoning regulations

Regulations vary widely from location to location. Neighbourhoods are also often wary about allowing these often-misunderstood alternative communities, and legislators are slow to introduce changes to ease the spread of cohousing.


Because they diverge from the typical developmental model, banks and local governments are often unwilling to support new cohousing development plans. So loans are difficult to acquire and the financial burdens on new communities can therefore be difficult to surmount.

Influence of commercial developers

Only 10% of UK homes are self-built. The majority of homes today are built by massive construction firms, whose concerns are economic. Cohousing developers face tough competition from more influential developers when trying to acquire property and build upon it as they have lower build costs and can therefore afford to pay more for the land.


Few people understand the concept of cohousing, and many assume it involves hippie-style communes. So cohousing developers face an ideological divide and are often hindered by biases and misled assumptions about what these communities are like.


Ownership models differ from community to community, and many questions must be answered before a cohousing community can take root. For example: Who owns the land and the houses? Who are the investors? What happens when community members die or decide to move away?



Invented in Denmark


Spread to Sweden


Introduced in the Netherlands


Appearance in USA


Appearance in UK



0 built 0+ in development


0 built 0+ in development


0 built (approx.) 0+ in development


of Danish households are now cohousing


+200 senior-only communities

+100 women-only communities

2012 cohousing developments in the USA

Representation of a map of the United States, with state boundaries.

Cohousing and the environment

Smaller footprints

Because communal space is used for guest bedrooms and yards and other facilities, individual homes are smaller and cohousing developments use less land.

Fewer emissions

Vehicle sharing significantly reduces the community's carbon footprint.

Eating local

Communal gardens support local, sustainable agriculture.


Using communal spaces, fewer resources are used per person for construction, use, and maintenance.

Less commuting

On-site workspaces reduce need for commute.

Energy efficiency

Shared heating/cooling units reduce emissions and are far more efficient than individual units in each home.

The economics of cohousing

icon representing 'workspace'


There is a shortage of affordable workspace in the UK. Because cohousing communities provide communal workspace, their proliferation will further boost growth in the already rapidly rising freelance sector.

icon representing 'rezoning'


Because they use fewer vehicles and resources, cohousing developments can be built on land currently not zoned for housing - a fact which is particularly relevant in light of London's housing crisis.

icon representing 'affordability'


By conserving resources and pooling assets, cohousing communities can help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing. It is estimated that about 35% of future cohousing developments will provide affordable housing.

The future of cohousing

Baby boomer are increasingly looking for alternative living options outside retirement communities.

In the US, the number of cohousing communities are expected to double by 2015.

The internet and social media have made it easier than ever to connect with like-minded people interested in building cohousing communities.

Each year, in nations throughout Europe and Americas, more cohousing developments spring up.