Several Cannock Mill Cohousing members were pleased to participate in the National Cohousing Conference in Birmingham on 6 November 2015. One of the key sessions was a brainstorming to help develop a manifesto for cohousing. That session highlighted the diversity and breadth of the cohousing movement.
Those offering their views focused on cohousing for affordable renting, cohousing for low-cost new build and cohousing for the Waitrose card carrying few who had benefited from capital growth in the housing market. Cohousing was multigenerational but it was also capable of meeting the needs of seniors. Cohousing was local, springing out of local initiatives that prompted local government to work with communities to achieve innovative housing solutions. But cohousing was also universal, where people could come together from diverse geographical backgrounds to form something that was not locally based but could become locally significant.
What cemented these differing viewpoints into a cohesive vision for cohousing was the core advantage that cohousing brings, namely its unique fusion of community and living arrangements.
Separate households with their own front doors are brought together by sharing a common house and other resources. This social element, eating together and sharing other activities, is what ultimately delivers value irrespective of the form of tenure, geographical location, or set of values that bring a group together.
The benefits of a wider community that is not just centered on an extended family are perceived differently depending on the viewpoint and time of life of the individual. A family going into cohousing may point to the benefits for their children of the extended community where parents and grandparents are supported by other adults with similar experiences and children can play with other children in a supported environment. Senior cohousers can look towards active ageing in the company of others of a similar age, rather than the prospect of increased isolation and perhaps even loneliness in old age.
Many who attended the National Cohousing Conference will have come away from the day with renewed enthusiasm for cohousing, and rightly so; we need to work together to emphasise the benefits of cohousing in order to realise an increasing role for it as a modern alternative way of meeting diverse housing and social needs.
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