How to Create an Intergenerational Cohousing Community in the UK?

March 11, 2024

In the UK alone, there has been a strong movement in recent years, people are creating something quite unique: intergenerational cohousing communities. It’s a project that combines the best of both worlds- the vibrancy of youth and the wisdom of older residents. But, how exactly is this concept of cohousing communities implemented in the housing sector?

What is Cohousing?

Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space. Each attached or single-family home has traditional amenities, including a private kitchen. Shared spaces typically feature a common house, which may include a large kitchen and dining area. Neighbors also share resources like tools and lawnmowers.

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Households have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbors collaboratively plan and manage community activities and shared spaces. The legal structure is typically an HOA, Condo Association, or Housing Cooperative. Community activities feature regularly-scheduled shared meals, meetings, and workdays.

Neighbors gather for parties, games, movies, or other events. Cohousing makes it easy to form clubs, organize child and elder care, and carpool.

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Why Cohousing?

Cohousing communities are created and run by their residents. Each community is unique, reflecting the shared values and cultures of the people who call it home. These values can include sharing and cooperation, concern for the environment, and fostering a sense of community.

The households enjoy the benefits of shared resources and skills, such as reduced living costs and shared childcare. Yet, they also maintain independent control over their homes.

Steps in Building a Cohousing Community

If you’re interested in creating an intergenerational cohousing community, here are some steps to guide you through the process:

1. Formulate a Cohousing Group

The first step is to form a group of people interested in creating a cohousing community. This can include friends, families, or even strangers who share common values or interests. You can also reach out to other cohousing communities for advice and support.

2. Create a Vision Statement

A vision statement will articulate what you want to achieve with your cohousing community. It will include your shared values, your desired location, and the type of housing you wish to build. It will serve as a guide for the group’s decision-making process.

3. Find a Site

Once you have a clear vision, you can start looking for a suitable site. This could be an existing building that can be converted into a cohousing community, or a piece of land where you can build new homes.

4. Develop a Project Plan

The project plan will outline how you will finance and manage the development of your cohousing community. This could involve selecting an architect, obtaining planning permission, and securing financing for the project.

5. Build the Community

The final step is to build the community. This involves constructing the homes, creating the shared facilities, and organising the community’s management structure.

Cohousing in London

In London, Older Women’s Cohousing (OWCH) has successfully developed a community for women over fifty. They converted a former hospital site into 25 self-contained flats and a common house. The project has been so successful that they are now planning a second development.

Another example is Coin Street, a community on the South Bank of the River Thames. The residents of Coin Street have built a vibrant community with a range of affordable homes, shops, and community facilities.

Contact for Cohousing

If you’re interested in creating a cohousing community in the UK, there are several organizations that can help. The UK Cohousing Network is a national charity that supports the development of cohousing communities. They provide advice, training, and networking opportunities for cohousing groups.

Another useful organization is the Cohousing Company, a consultancy that helps groups plan, finance, and build cohousing projects. They can assist with everything from initial planning to project management.

Cohousing is an innovative and sustainable way of living that creates vibrant, supportive communities. By sharing resources and responsibilities, residents can enjoy a high quality of life at lower cost. It’s a model that could help address many of the housing challenges facing the UK today.

Cohousing in South West England

South West England is no stranger to the concept of cohousing. This region has successfully established a number of cohousing communities, each with its own unique flair and character.

One such community is the Lancaster Cohousing project, located on the banks of the River Lune in Lancashire. This project is a shining example of an intergenerational housing model, with its members ranging from young families to older people. This mixed tenure community comprises 41 homes, a common house for shared meals and socialising, and a range of shared amenities such as a laundry, workshop and children’s play area.

Notably, fully mutual cooperatives like this one give each member an equal say in decisions affecting their community. This creates a strong sense of ownership and responsibility among residents, fostering a close-knit, collaborative environment.

In addition to Lancaster, another noteworthy cohousing community in the South West is Bridport Cohousing in Dorset. This community-led project has been designed with sustainability at its core. The eco-friendly homes are built from locally-sourced materials where possible, and the community is designed to be car-free, encouraging residents to walk, cycle, or use public transport.

If you’re in the South West and are interested in joining or starting a cohousing project, it’s recommended to read contact information provided by the UK Cohousing Network or to contact South West representatives for more information and guidance.

Conclusion and Further Contact for Cohousing

The UK has clearly embraced the concept of cohousing, with thriving communities across the country. From London to South West England, these communities offer a refreshing alternative to traditional housing. They bring together residents of all ages, fostering a sense of community, shared responsibility, and mutual support.

For those considering this lifestyle, it’s important to remember that creating a cohousing community requires commitment, collaboration, and a shared vision. It’s not just about building homes, but also about building relationships and a sense of belonging. This is what makes cohousing so unique and rewarding.

If you’re inspired to embark on your own cohousing journey, there are resources available to guide you. The UK Cohousing Network and the Cohousing Company are valuable resources. For specific regional insight, you can contact North or South representatives depending on your location.

In conclusion, intergenerational cohousing presents a sustainable and community-led solution to many of the UK’s housing challenges. It combines the vibrancy of youth with the wisdom of older residents, creating a harmonious and supportive living environment. As more people discover the benefits of this lifestyle, it’s expected that the trend for cohousing will continue to grow in the UK.