History of Cohousing

In many ways cohousing is not a new idea. Until this century, most human
interaction occured in small, self-supportive communities. The cohousing
model builds on hundreds of years of experience of human interaction where
small groups of people came together and cooperated to achieve a mutually
beneficial lifestyle.

The first cohousing community was built just outside of Copenhagen Denmark
in 1972 by 27 families who wanted a greater sense of community than was
available in suburban subdivisions or apartment complexes. They desired a
neighbourhood with a child-friendly environment and the opportunity for
cooperation in daily household functions like laundry, meals, and child
care. Today, cohousing has become an accepted housing option in Denmark,
with several hundred projects built and hundreds more on the drawing
board. The Danish government has also adopted cohousing as a subsidized
social housing model.

Based on Denmarks experience, cohousing has spread all over nothern
Europe. There are now cohousing communities in Sweden, Norway, Germany,
Holland and France. There are 30 completed projects in Holland with
another 40 planned. Most of the Swedish cohousing are in high rises. As
one Norweigan architect put it, We like to let the Danes do the
experimenting. When it is clear that an idea works, then we try it.

With the publication of McCamant and Durretts book, CoHousing: A
Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves in 1988, North America was
finally introduced to this danish concept. McCamant and Durrett were San
Franciscan architects studying in Denmark when they came across the idea
of cohousing. They studied and lived in 46 cohousing communities in
Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands for 13 months. They were so excited
about the concept that they self published the Cohousing book upon their
return to California.

In 1989, the first North American cohousing community arrived at N Street
in Davis, California where 12 households ripped down the fences between
their back yards and used the basement of one as their common house. Since
then, another 18 communities have been completed in the United States
ranging in size from 6 to 42 units. Most of the developments are in
California, Washington and Colorado with some in Masc, Minnesota, New
Mexico and Vermont. The first cohousing community in Canada is Victorias
Cardiff Place completed in the summer of 1994 with 17 condominium style units.

By the end of 1991 there were 2 completed cohousing communities in North
America, by 1992 there were 4, by 1993 there were 8 and by the end of 1994
there were 16. Clearly, North Americans have taken hold of the cohousing
concept much faster than their European counterparts. There is now a North
American Cohousing umbrella organization called the Cohousing Network,
several dozen regional organizations, an annual national cohousing
conference, a CoHousing Journal, a cohousing WWW site, and a Listserve
discussion group with almost 400 participants from around the world.