six components of cohousing
Cohousing can be found in many forms - from urban factory loft conversions to suburban cities to small towns. Whatever the form, cohousing projects share the six components that are listed here and described more fully below:
See a video discussing these principles below.
Phillip & Denise
Information gathered through learning from Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant
The Cohousing Co (USA)
The ‘Why’ is very important in working out a vision for any organisation… in this little video we (Phillip & Denise Daffara) touch on Chrysalis Cohousing’s reason for being.
When the WHY is clear, the HOW (principles and process) and WHAT (project definition/outcomes) follows with transformative impact.
Phillip & Denise
Here is a video recording of my presentation (Meetup 2/7/2021) about the importance of participatory design in making cohousing communities. I cover the purpose of participatory design, its value to cohousing and how to integrate participatory decision making into the codesign process.
2004, Phillip Daffara Co-Facilitator in foreground (Maroochy 2025 Community Visioning Summit)
Below, I show the six componenst of cohousing, based on the experience of Charles Durrent (Architect and Faciltator/Founder of over 50 cohousing projects). I am highlighting these components here and now because the six components of Cohousing all rely of the consensus decision making process within an intentional community from formation to facility management.
The Group Process
A Cohousing community is a community of equals – no matter how diverse its members may be in age, background, education or ability. The more we learn about making decisions as equals, the better we are able to make those decisions. Each group refines the decision-making process to suit their needs.
The following is a sample list of guidelines that some groups may follow:
If we reach a Stalemate…
Using Colored Cards to Achieve Consensus
Groups have successfully used the following system of colored cards to facilitate the consensus process. There are two contexts in which to use the cards: Procedural and Decision Making.
Procedural uses occur during preliminary discussions of an issue. Participants hold up a card before speaking. The facilitator recognizes them in the following order:
(1) Red (2) Yellow (3) Green
In the procedural context, the cards have the following meanings:
Red means “Stop the Process” (time out) and indicates a breach in agreed upon procedures. Examples include; discussing topics not on the agenda, going overtime, and suggesting that a member of the group is being inconsiderate of the group process. It can also be used when a member feels uncomfortable with the way that the process is proceeding or if they believe that a break would be appropriate. The red card may be raised at any time during discussion.
Yellow indicates a member’s ability to clarify some part of the discussion.
Green indicates a member’s desire to make a comment or ask a question.
More than one card may be raised at a time by a single member, but the order of priority listed above is still observed. When there is more than one card of the same color raised, the facilitator ensures that the individuals are heard in the order that the cards have been raised
In the decision-making context the cards have the following meanings:
Green indicates agreement with the proposal under discussion.
Yellow indicates that the member has reservations but is unwilling to block group consensus because of those reservations.
Red indicates the member’s opposition to the proposal at hand and their willingness to block group consensus because of that opposition. When a member/or members use a red card, it becomes his or her responsibility to work with the proposing committee to come up with a solution that will work for everyone.
It is incumbent upon group members to use red cards judiciously within the procedural context, remembering that green cards permit questions and comments. Similarly, in the decision-making context, members should be conscious of the seriousness of blocking consensus and use the red cards only for principled objections. However, when a member strongly believes that the fundamental interests of the group are not being served by a particular decision, the red card should be used as a vote of conscience, even if unpopular.
Results of Consensus
Once all yellow cards have been responded to (assuming there are no red cards displayed) consensus is presumed to have been reached.
However if yellow cards are predominant, it is worthwhile to reconsider the decision. A primary benefit of the colored card system versus majority rule is the opportunity for a more accurate reading of members’ positions regarding a particular matter. The shades of “for” and “against” responses using the card system can serve as notice that a proposal needs refining.
Hand Signals instead of Coloured Cards
Hand signals are another method for reading a room's positions nonverbally. They work well with groups of fewer than 250 people and especially with multi-lingual groups. The nature and meaning of individual gestures varies between groups, but a widely adopted core set of hand signals include:
One common set of hand signals is called the "Fist-to-Five" or "Fist-of-Five". In this method each member of the group can:
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to hear two different Japanese architects speak about co-housing projects they designed. Putting the model of delivery aside which is a little unclear, what impressed me most about both projects were their intent to give back to their local economy in small yet impactful ways. The Japanese also have a great design sensibility for small space living. Here is a brief overview of each.
Apartment 2, Nish-Kasai, Tokyo by Komada Architects
Takeshi Komanda says he sees building in cities as building "small ponds". The metaphor of the small pond conjurs the image of cycles of flow and life - of activiation. The cohousing project named simply "Apartment 2" (2018) is on a small urban block of 284.69m2. The project provides 6 rental apartments, a co-working space, a communal rooftop and a street level bakery/cafe. The owners of the bakery live in one of the apartments. The project also provides a ground level space for cultural workshops.
Despite the small site area, the project creates a side alley which becomes a lively public space as locals come to buy and dine at the bakery/cafe. Really interesting to me is the use of a winding veranda like corridor that connects the four levels like a street.
"Housing with Small Economy" by naka Architects
Yuri Uno and Shiharu Naka say that alternative housing models are needed to meet the needs of residents and also give back to the local economy - by allowing local efforts to circulate locally. In their project named "Housing with small economy" (2014) they sought to build a housing project "open" to its local community. On a very small corner site, the mixed use project provided a small street level resturant, 5 SOHO apartments over three levels, a co-sharing office/studio space and a "Roji" (communal alley up through the building linking the uses).
No matter how small a co-housing project is, the building group can set an intention from the beginning to contribute to the local community and economy wherein it is located. To restate the metaphor: "building a pond that will attract local life within its surroundings". Both projects do this by creating: (1) a commercial space for a local business, (2) adding to the public domain, (3) providing co-working space that can be accessed by others in the community as well as residents, and (4) designing small dwellings with beauty.
In the Chrysalis Cohousing introduction, I presented a template development process with typical stages. An important aspect of delivering a cohousing project is the development finance and development "vehicle".
For example, Urban Coup, based in Melbourne is an Incorporated Association with annual membership fees to access the privelege of defining projects. Their current project is "Near & Tall" at 30 Hope Street, Brunswick.
Members who agreed to develop this specific cohousing project and intentional community subscribe to and become members of a unit trust. The development is undertaken by a Special Purpose Development Company directed by architects and a representative from Urban Coup. Members then buy their apartment 'off the plan'.
Alternatively, Property Collectives, also based in Melbourne, assist people who want to develop a cohousing project as Development Managers. In their process, groups approach them to guide them through the complex and difficult development stages to deliver a "citizen-led housing model that builds quality homes at cost".
People who join a project early have more control in regard to strategic direction, values and principles, design outcomes and location. These early adopters are more comfortable with the unknowns about their future home. Interestingly, the Property Collective do not try to have 100% commitment from all homeowners before site acquistion.
Rather from their extensive experience thay have learnt that not having the full complement before land acquistion works well because the final site yield is unknown and so the opportunity exists for late comers to join the collective housing group.
People who join later, need and have more certainty about the cohousing development (with access to Concept Plans and Planning Approval), but have less choice about the overall design concept and apartment selection.
Members commit to a project by signing a Participation Agreement with the Development Manager (DM). At the site acquistion stage, participants become Joint Venturers and to finance the purchase enter into a Joint Venture Agreement with built in financial obligations (purchase deposits). When the project enters the construction stage and Development Finance is required the Joint Venturers obtain bank finance.
The group have the option to form a Development Company which has tax and GST advantages. At completion, Joint Venturers take out their own individual home loans to purchase at cost their home from the Joint Venture/Development Company.
Thanks to Tim Riley of Property Collectives for this snapshot and diagram below given recently in a webinar.
With this model, Property Collectives have delivered 9 projects and 60 homes at 15% below market prices, by cutting out Speculative Developer overheads, Marketing costs and sales commissions and no Captial Gains Tax, GST or stamp duty on completion.
For the Sunshine Coast property market, a 15% saving is significant. For example, the average price per square meter to buy an apartment in a city centre on the Sunshine Coast is $4333.00. A 15% saving is $650/sqm making the cost price $3683/sqm. For a 100 square meter apartment that means a home which is $65,000.00 cheaper than the market.
Who is more keen now to commit to a cohousing project?
ciao Phillip and Denise Daffara
Our first webinar was held on 17th August 2020. There were a quite a few who could not make it, so I post the presentation I gave below. I converted the slides into a video and provided narration to make it a concise 15min video. I also provide a PDF of the slides for those you just want to read the content.
If you have any questions, after going through the presentation please send them through via the website contact form, so that we can answer them at the next webinar.
Phillip and Denise Daffara