Kathryn McCamant

Book cover

Cohousing is an approach to residential living in which several families (or couples or singles) live in individual dwellings as part of a planned community that also includes some shared common facilities, most notably a communal kitchen and dining area. It is different from fully shared housing because the individual units also have their own separate (if perhaps small) cooking and eating facilities, but also different from fully independent housing, because of the common facilities, and also because the development is designed (participatively by the prospective residents) to encourage socialization (for example, locating parking on the outside of the development and having pedestrian-only walkways on the interior). Elise and I first heard about (roughly) this type of arrangement via the “Story of Stuff” author Annie Leonard, who lives in what she refers to as a “kampung” (Malay or Bahasa for “village”) in the Bay Area.

This book was written (in about 1990) by two Americans who spearheaded the development of the first American cohousing communities in the 1980s. It focuses on the development of the cohousing concept in Denmark in the 1970s, profiling a number of communities there, as well as looking at some of the American communities that the authors helped to organize.

Although the enterprise itself may be somewhat idealistic, the book is very practically oriented and includes lots of interesting information about the difficulties faced by communities trying to organize such projects. Overall, it warmed my 1970s NorCal heart.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars