I came across the cohousing community concept from an article in the New York Times. It immediately struck my interest. First, because the village living reminds me of The Walking Dead, don’t judge. Second, because I read this one line that stood out, “rather than depending on the nuclear family unit to meet all emotional needs,” the cohousing participants live interdependently. In my situation, the mother of two, with a full-time career, and lack of available relatives or friends, this statement drew me in. Third, and most intriguing was the astonishing recognition of the top 3 goals that every multifamily property management team should take from cohousing.
I’ll explain how cohousing works as we go along. To begin, cohousing communities are composed of generally 15 to 40 private households that share common spaces. Typically, the most important shared space is found in the center of the community. It holds the shared kitchen, eating area, and lounge. It’s the space where all residents flock, where no one sleeps, but everyone lives. Other areas shared within the community that has similar effects may include a garden, tool shed, laundry facility, game room, gym, playground, fire pit, etc.
The center location, shared space in an apartment complex is often the clubhouse. Clubhouses in older apartments are being renovated at a rapid pace. Instead of unused, stale and outdated space, owners are upgrading them to include tech stations, coffee bars, big screen TV’s, trendy furniture, patio doors, floor to ceiling windows, and more. This provides an aesthetically pleasing appeal allowing the residents to not only be comfortable in this space but desire to spend their time there.
Property managers use clubhouses and other attractive amenities to sell the idea of community to potential residents. The gym, playground, pool, vegetable garden beds, sleek outdoor BBQ, fire pit, bocce ball, dog park, and putting green are some of the amenities/common spaces that spark resident interest. Goal #1- To have the residents desire to be a part of their community. To do this, property managers are painting the picture for the residents to promote the use of the amenities. The message is that these are spaces commonly used by the residents, to gather, play, exercise, work, and relax. The idea is to have the communal areas be seen as a necessity, often creating an emotional comfort for residents.
More and more multifamily properties are being built ground up, as sustainable buildings. Existing apartments are doing the upgrades they need to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainable living as well. The ideas are turned into reality, and changes are being made.
Goal #3- To Promote Resident Involvement in Sustainable Living. Property managers want the participation that exists in the cohousing communities; it brings their residents together and strengthens their relationships. For example, property management teams are making it easier to practice sustainable living for the residents by providing options. Such as, providing LED light bulbs to the residents and adding the cost into their rent. It’s effortless for the residents, easy to manage by the property managers, and it has positive sustainable results.
As stated in The New York Times: “Inexpensive cities, it can be cost-effective and stimulating, intellectually, and emotionally, to share regular meals in a group…cohousing participants have a wide range of people to talk to… It’s a lot easier to sit down next to someone at a common weekly meal and spontaneously troubleshoot how to handle a rude boss or health problem than it is to call an equally stressed friend in hopes that it is a moment when he or she can talk”.
The relationships formed within the community where you live-build roots and leads to long-term residency. Getting an apartment community gathered to cook dinner together every week is highly unlikely. Unfortunately, it’s even harder to get people to connect now than ever before. Why start a conversation with a stranger, when you can just look at your phone, right? Technology aside, human nature desires the non-intimate, like-minded connections you can get from being an active member in your community. It builds on your perspective, confidence, and self-worth.
Although I’m not planning on moving to a cohousing community, I do like the idea of having neighbors I trust that have similar family dynamics. I’d love to just send my kid down the street to borrow a tool or play for an hour. It’s important to feel like you are part of something, and the community that you live in should be at the top of that list. Multifamily living is already at an all-time high. But, if property management teams can break the code, and find a way for their residents to connect, I have no doubt the multifamily market will only increase.