Thanks to Ian for the links.  My thoughts follow.

Jana Kasperkevic writes in the Guardian about several corporations setting up to provide and manage shared accommodation in the USA.  One company (Open Door) runs “self-managed” houses with around 10-12 housemates.  Another (Common), provides basic household services like weekly cleaning. Other companies entering this field are established property managers looking to new markets for their buildings and space.

A bit more detail from Kasperkevic on Common:

Common’s next project in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, consists of four five-story buildings connected to create a 20,000 sq ft space with 51 bedrooms. Most of the apartments will consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms and one kitchen-living area. The members will also have access to communal space in the basement and the rooftop. The space is set to open later this spring with bedrooms starting at $1,800 a month for a 12-month commitment. Tiered pricing will be available for six-, three- and one-month stays.

I lived in “communal” houses when I was in grad school, and was young, and dinosaurs walked the earth.  The memories are not happy ones.  These are echoed in the rather astute comments that follow the Guardian’s article.  Maybe this sort of housing is not for everyone. But it was really cheap.

The photos that accompany the article put a shiny happy spin on the “co-living” concept.  When I study them for a while, they look like glossy PR pix, and unrepresentative of the likely reality. Sort of chic-utopian. Certainly, they show a narrow demographic.


Meanwhile, here in BC (Sooke to be exact), another type of co-housing community is underway. Karen Wells of CBC Radio does 31:35 on Harbourside. The concept is quite different from above:

A school bus driver, a mountain guide, a teacher, a hard living old DJ, several nurses, and an anthropologist – more than forty people – have built  their own community. They call it Harbourside.

Five years ago they didn’t know each other. Now, they are a tribe – neighbours prepared to live together and look after each other, with any luck, till the end of their days.

Their mantra – flourishing through mutual support.

The concept is called co-housing and it originated in Denmark. Now it’s big on the west coast of North America and is gaining ground across Canada, as people search for new forms of community, support and caring.

Harbourside is co-housing for seniors. It is one of the first of its kind in Canada.


To quote Harboursides’s descriptions is to see the appeal and the differences to the above model.  The big one in my mind is that one is for people with money, the other isn’t.

Cohousing is a neighbourhood design that combines the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living – it encourages community while maintaining the option for privacy.

Not to be confused with co-op’s, cohousing uses the strata title ownership structure. To find out more about the difference between cohousing, co-op’s and conventional strata title click here.

Cohousing is based on private ownership of complete, self-contained homes centered around and focused on shared facilities (common house), which typically includes a kitchen, dining area, lounge, guest/caregiver suites, workshop, meeting spaces and other features the members may choose. Although each home has its own complete kitchen, shared dinners are typically available a few days each week at the common house for those who wish to participate.

Zosia Bieliski writes in the Globe and Mail with a wide perspective on senior co-housing.

Baby boomers have long rejected tradition. Now, some are hoping to re-invent yet another stage in life: old age. As the first wave of boomers retires, some are writing a new script for what comes next. While their parents also sought to avoid institutions, most did not think further than the family home. They “aged in place,” often suffering social isolation and reduced mobility, especially after the death of a spouse.

Their children do not want to grow old alone. They want to age well in community, not in a pod in the sky or a rural home on the peripheries. The buzzword is “interdependence:” You want your own space but you also want to know –and to some degree, depend on – your neighbours. These boomers want someone to be there for them before a nurse is needed, which may be a while given their unprecedented health and longevity.

To that end, alternative housing arrangements are popping up all over North America, with a small but determined cohort – many of them single, divorced and widowed – thinking up many of the setups themselves. Harkening back to the communes and co-ops of the boomers’ youth, about a dozen “co-housing” communities have sprouted across Canada, with dozens more in the planning stages. Most consist of small individual apartments or houses with large shared kitchens, dining rooms, terraces and gardens where neighbours willingly interact. For those who want the energy of the young, there are multi-generational communities that welcome families. For others who would rather splurge on yoga mats, elevators and respite suites than on playgrounds, certain developments are reserved for empty-nesters. They are planned, owned and managed by residents, not outsiders.