CO-HOUSING: living in community

Pic 01 – Co-Housing Sketch Eco Village (Source: 5them)

What is co-housing?


became popular in the 1960s in Denmark and was later introduced to  North America in the 80s. It is described as “neighbourhoods that combine the autonomy of private dwellings with the advantages of shared resources and community living” (source: The aim was to create a new kind of housing in which families can live in community. This has many advantages: shared costs, shared maintenance of the property, guaranteed  help with chores, social network and support for  single parents, living with like-minded people etc. The big question is“what kind of  community, what kind of people, and are there any social or special practices required in order to have successful co-housing communities?
With this blog post we would like to show you a few examples from one of the very first co-housing experiences and how it is still successful today. We will also show more recent projects and forms of co-housing, and what co-housing looks like nowadays in Canada.

“Centraal Wonen”

The first example is “Centraal Wonen”, located in Delft, Netherlands. This project started in 1975. Together with an architect (Phillip Krabbendam), the future residents had a weekend  “design kick-off”. They created different pre-design scenarios to show how the residents saw the space being created within a building. They used simple foam blocks to give a visual to their ideas. These conceptual ideas were used and the architect created his design by differentiating four social sequences: individual households, groups, clusters and the project as a whole. Within this structure, eight to ten residents had a common kitchen and living space and 35 to 40 residents were grouped within a cluster with a common garden & facility space including laundry, bicycle storage etc). Common facilities such as a bar, a yoga room, workshop (work shed?) and a common vegetable garden were offered to several groups of clusters which would serve 100-120 people. The common areas were open to people in the neighbourhood as well.


Many more designs and decision-making steps were taken before the project construction started. Today the building is still standing and the accommodations are in high demand. Some families moved out and new residents followed (moved in?) and the garden and common areas are flourishing. Living in this context offers many challenges as well as opportunities. Residents see these  everyday interactions as adventures and welcome opportunities to build community. A  2016 visit by researchers from the working group of Collaborative Housing of the European Network for Housing Research  documented the high demand and satisfaction of the residents.

Source “Centraal Wonen”, Netherlands: Architect Phillip Krabbendam

More Projects

Nowadays more and more projects are being realised – with different ownership forms, community forms and at different scales. Another example shows a standard looking apartment with  clever  usage and definition of its central courtyard. A few amenities were added such as  a common kitchen big enough so that all families can cook together three times a week. Nine families got together , designed and built the house. The TED Talk below tells the story about this apartment building solution.

Grace kim, how cohousing can make us happier and live longer?

In her TED Talk, Architect Grace Kim gives several examples of a community concept that can be integrated through small and effective changes – common space designed through lighting, furniture etc to invite community interaction. Maybe you live in an apartment building that offers a community room but is rarely used, and a few clever interior design changes could make this space more attractive. Or the small green patch around your building could be re-designed and landscaped and could suddenly become a popular spot to chat with your neighbours and where children  could play in a safe environment.

In Canada there are several examples of co-housing cooperatives and some that are about to get started. One example in Calgary is the Prairie Sky Co-housing Cooperative

More information can be found here:

Affordable Community Housing in China

Some modern co-housing designs have been used to tackle social problems. One project is in China where farmers used to collective living currently live in desperate conditions in the countryside due to labour and resource exploitation.. This project used vernacular design and the architects researched the living style for future residents and adapted the plans accordingly. Besides offering affordable housing and beautiful design, the residents also reported a high quality of life after moving in.

Co-housing in 2030

What will co-housing in the future look like? How much do people want to share and with who? And what role will technology play? A fun survey dives deeper into those questions – try it out One shared house 2030

Pic 06 – survey by IKEA and SpaceLab10 about shared housing in 2030 (source
survey by IKEA

Ownership and Mortgages

There are a few different ways multiple people can share land, and these affect how people can borrow money. The term Co-Housing is not legally a form of ownership, but rather a form of development. This concept is generally run as a Strata (see details in section below), but the initial funding and planning is done by the members (future tenants), based on their needs. The “units” may be separate houses, apartments, or they may be rooms with a common  kitchen and living room.. While a unit can theoretically be sold to anyone (since it’s a Strata),the communal nature of the housing means that there might be a selection process to find future tenants that are interested in contributing to the community activities within the property and sharing similar interests and values with the other families.

(Discloser – this is a general overview and is not meant as legal advice – before starting this process and signing contracts please consult with your lawyer / mortgage adviser etc about the best options and solutions, source of the information: provided by


  • A company (e.g. a non-profit) is created which owns the land and all the units.
  • Members purchase shares that give them the right to occupy, but not own, the unit.
  • Difficult to get a mortgage since the member doesn’t own anything. This really only makes sense if there is government funding, which isn’t generally available today.


  • A company is created which owns the land and all the units.
  • The company owns the common spaces.
  • Members own individual units, pay a monthly fee for maintenance of common spaces.
  • Decisions about common spaces and changes to monthly fees are based on voting by members.
  • The Strata act prohibits the company from limiting the resale of units, so anyone can sell a unit to anyone.
  • Easy to get a mortgage.

This is the most common option, if interested to build a community (co-housing, tiny house community etc)

Joint Tenancy

  • Two or more people own the land.
  • There can be contractual agreements that limit who a share can be sold to, or require approval, but in general any person can sell their share to anyone.
  • If one person dies, their share passes to the other owners.

Most common among families since it avoids the need for a will or probate.

Tenancy in Common

  • Two or more people own the land.
  • There can be contractual agreements that limit who a share can be sold to, or require approval, but in general any person can sell their share to anyone.
  • If one person dies, their share goes to their heirs.
  • Requires a slightly different mortgage (called a “mixer mortgage”) since the different owners might pay off their share at different rates, but there are still risks since if one owner defaults, the others are responsible for the debt.

This seems like an option for a tiny house community.

Tenancy by the Entirety

  • Two or more people own the land.
  • No one person can sell their share or take out a loan without everyone’s permission. This means the land can’t be seized by a creditor.
  • Most common when one spouse may have debts (gambling, or business) and the other one wants to protect the home.

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