Co-Housing is well established as a mainstream housing / lifestyle option in a number of countries. Co-Housing was first created in Denmark in the 1970s, and around 8% of Danes aged over 50
now live in Co-Housing. There are over 200 Co-Housing schemes up and running in the Netherlands. Co-Housing can also be found in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, etc.
Co-Housing is starting to make an appearance in the UK with several groups working to set up developments in their local areas including OWCH, LILAC, Mandorla and Threshold.
Co-Housing offers independent living within a loose community setting. Members choose to live in Co-Housing because they are attracted by the opportunity to live in contact with their neighbours while at the same time retaining their independence and responsibility for their own lives.
Co-Housing is not a Commune or a Co-operative. Co-Housing has been described as ‘Living Apart Together’ in an ‘intentional community’ which combines the autonomy and privacy of the individual household with the mutual support offered through a degree of collaborative living.
Research indicates – and common sense suggests - that the housing options currently available to the over 50s do not always meet the needs of an increasingly active older population seeking to
maintain independence for as long as possible. The traditional choices (e.g. staying in the family home, moving in with grown up children, being placed into residential care) are neither
attractive, sufficient nor appropriate. More and more single people over 50, as well as couples, are looking for suitable affordable accommodation, together with a fulfilling lifestyle and
opportunities for social connection. Housing which matches these criteria and is particularly suited for older people is at present not readily available in Scotland.
Co-Housing is particularly relevant for the over 50s and the Co-Housing model offers:
Co-Housing enables older people – and also younger people looking ahead – to make lifestyle choices that will suit themselves into the future. People can make their own choices now instead of waiting until their health and other abilities are declining and decisions on their behalf have to be made by others.
Most Co-Housing in Denmark, the home of Co-Housing, is for older people only and Co-Housing for older people is now incorporated as an option in the national housing policies of both Denmark and the Netherlands. At least one other U.K. group, OWCH (Older Women’s Co-Housing, in London), has recognised the special relevance of Co-Housing for the over 50 age group.
Co-Housing is beginning to make an appearance in the UK. There are a handful of Co-Housing projects which are already in existence, plus a number of other groups which are at various stages
along the development process.
The U.K Co-Housing Network has been set up to allow the various local groups to keep in touch with one another via a website: www.cohousing.org.uk
Most of the Co-Housing groups in the UK are privately funded, with members owning their own properties. Vivarium, however, is attempting to follow the principle of ‘affordability’, where access to Co-Housing is not restricted to those who can afford the capital investment.
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