To put it simply, co-living is living together — more than just co-existing. The “co-” could stand for cooperative or collaborative. But the deeper meaning is recognizing your interdependence, being there for others and knowing that they are there for you.
The word co-living expresses our goals and our efforts, bringing forth the recognition that a community involves more than just structures but also modes of interacting — of living. Such a community is, to some degree or other, intentional. Those living in such arrangements are committed to maintaining a healthy community and supportive relationships. Typically, co-living communities involve joint decision-making and many also focus on sustainable living.
We see the term as being more inclusive and descriptive of how a community actually functions, particularly intentional communities where residents come together, work together and share their lives willingly, with the recognition that doing so provides for an overall better quality of life.
There has been some confusion about the term itself. Various corporate developers have co-opted the word, applying it to the dormitory-like living arrangements that are more economical and provide a greater degree of interaction among the residents. Often people choose to live in such places for economic reasons, and the ideal of community may not be their primary consideration. While this could be considered a form of co-living, it would be wrong to narrow the definition of the term to this form of group habitation. The Delaware Valley Co-Living Cooperative offers an alternative vision of self-governance that is not based on profiting financially from others’ housing.
A broader, more comprehensive definition would be that co-living is an intentional community of private residences or living quarters sharing a common area for socializing, community meals and meetings. As in a common co-housing model, residences typically have separate amenities such as kitchens and bathrooms.
Common areas might include a unit or building which may have a shared kitchen, dining area, laundry facilities, and areas set aside for different forms of recreation. There is often a common garden, and units may be under one roof or connected by walkways. There is an emphasis on sharing items such as tools and appliances.
Individuals and families generally have separate incomes, but activities and shared spaces are managed collaboratively. The emphasis is on creating and maintaining a community of mutual support. In this manner, participants share resources, goods, and services in a non-competitive decentralized fashion.
The following are the most notable examples of co-living, as we define it, but others do exist.
- Tiny houses
- Shared dormitories (coliving)
- Cooperative buying clubs
- Community garden interfacing with food coops
- Cooperative health plans
- Credit union services for cooperative members
- Worker-owned cooperatives
- Art coops
Check out this TED Talk to get a better idea on what CO-housing is and why it’s important in so many ways.