A fundamental principle of all collaborative housing types is that the residents decide what, and how much of it, is shared. You can share a little or a lot. Decisions on sharing spaces within the building/s will need to be made during the design process. Other decisions, like how often residents get together to share a meal or work on community projects, can evolve throughout the life of the community.
The circles in the diagram express the idea that there is a ‘spectrum of sharing’. There are spaces where sharing is more accepted and spaces where privacy is the norm. Each group needs to negotiate for itself which spaces members are willing to share. Almost all collaborative housing communities share outdoor spaces, storage and parking, often with carpooling, but fewer share cooking and meals. They may have a shared space for eating together, but each household has its own self-contained kitchen and dining area.
Sharing saves money
Sharing avoids the unnecessary upfront costs associated with duplicating rooms, facilities and household items that could easily be shared. This is one of the primary ways that collaborative housing projects deliver cost savings to households. Unlike speculative development, collaborative housing projects can workshop the ideal sharing strategy with residents. Sharing also means maintenance and repair costs are lower per household.
Sharing builds community
Sharing needs to be well managed, which can equate to a little more work for residents in setting up and managing how it will work, but helps to create a stronger sense of community. Many collaborative housing communities talk about the benefits of informal social interaction, and shared facilities and activities are natural ways to encourage this. Of course, these should be balanced with sufficient private space to allow independence and alone time.
Sharing's good for the environment
This is another significant benefit to sharing. Sharing spaces, facilities and household items reduces demand for new resources and the environmental footprint of households.
Learning from cohousing
Traditional cohousing developments often involve small clusters of self-contained homes around a common house. The homes are smaller than would be standard due to the additional shared space. The common house typically includes a shared kitchen, dining and lounge space – many cohousing residents report the shared meals as essential to building a strong community. Depending on group interests it might also include other facilities like workshops, art studios, bookable guest accommodation, etc.