What is cohousing?

The roots of cohousing

This PBS video is about Saettedammen, which was created in the 1970s in Denmark and was the first cohousing community in the world. One of the greatest advantages of cohousing is the way it prevents social isolation.

Can cohousing save your life?

Architect Grace Kim talks about Capitol Hill Urban Cohousing, which she co-designed, developed, and lives in with her family. Cohousing starts with a shared intention to live collaboratively. “Intention is the single most important characteristic that differentiates co-housing from any other housing model,” says Kim. Because cohousing prevents social isolation, Kim maintains that it can save your life.

Benefits of living in community

Members of three co-housing communities: WindSongRoberts  Creek, and Cranberry Commons talk about the benefits of living in community.

How is the Fifth Street Commons similar to and different from these communities?

Most cohousing communities begin with a group of people who decide to live in community, and then plan and develop that community in accordance with their vision. In contrast, intentional community at the Fifth Street Commons was “reverse-engineered” into existing structures. 

The Fifth Street Commons began as an apartment complex made up of four fourplexes. When it went on the market, a group of private individuals purchased it. Then Ross Chapin and his wife Debora Koff-Chapin, along with JR and Cally Fulton, converted the apartment complex into condominiums, enlarged a small laundry building to create a common house, developed the initial vision for intentional community, and sold the condominiums to individual owners. Thus, residents of the Fifth Street Commons developed a sense of community after moving in.

One other difference is that we don’t share meals as often as other communities do. Our residential-sized kitchen makes comfortable gatherings possible, but it isn’t large enough to accommodate multiple cooks preparing and cleaning up after meals for the entire community. So we have potlucks instead. These take place officially once a month but arise spontaneously more often than that. In addition, social gatherings take place on Monday and Friday evenings.