Co-Housing – The retirement Choice of the Future
We have had great careers, have grown childen and now grandchildren. This is the time of our lives and now is the time to be reviewing and assessing our retirement reserves. But these reserves, for all or us, have been severely hurt by stock market and real estate debacles over the last ten years. What should us baby boomers do? We all have objectives and goals that are pretty much the same: We want to retire to a climate that has cooler summers yet still has mild winters, we want to remain active, and we don’t want to be alone. We need to be near to medical services, and not too far from a city.
In my family, the idea of a family compound began to surface about five years ago.
“How about we look for a piece of property – a few acres – where we can build a family house with multiple master suites; maybe a small farm with a stream or pond – somewhere in North Carolina or Tennessee?” One of us offered. “We can buy it now and gradually build so all of us can use it.” I loved the idea – it would give us a goal to shoot for. The ultimate goal would be to lower costs of acquisition and upkeep, be near family in our retirement, and as we age have others to take care of and care for us.
Shame on us for thinking we had an original idea. Now it’s called co-housing, but of course for centuries the elders were in large family houses along with multi-generations from newborns to great grandparents. But in our modern times transportation and communications and current lifestyles separated the families.
It’s time to bring them back together.
I have spent the last few weeks thinking and researching the concept of co-housing.
The ideas are all around us really. Many people live in a luxury condominium concept but they are not designed for one extended family; they do, however, share a pool, a large living room (amenity center), and expenses for upkeep of the condominium.
On the other end of the spectrum, Gail’s mom, who suffers from Alzeimers, lives in a group home with medical assistance; Mom’s room has it’s own bathroom, but the home has a shared kitchen, living room, laundry and dining area.
There is a concept called co-housing: “Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods. Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.”
I am intrigued by the cohousing concept and the difference between it and the more traditional condominium and coop structure of multi family living. The main difference is the commitment to community by the residents.
What our family has in mind is a smaller scale version of the cohousing concept – but I encourage you to explore the website- www.cohousing.org. As a developer I am certain to explore this issue further.
Rough Concept for the Fous House Sharing concept:
- One house with multiple “wings” all on one floor
- Each wing has bedroom suite – two rooms with bathrooms and two walk in closets
- Each wing or suite opens up into a common area
- The compound may have outbuildings with garages, workshop, exercise areas and storage.
I can picture a community with various sizes of the “bighouse” all in one strap of land. This will further the concept for communal living.
The ownership question and how to title property has been explored before, so we will not have to pave a new road here – but it is a critical one that needs to be addressed early in the planning stages.
Here in Florida the shared housing concept works extremely well for second and third homes. Years ago I wrote about buying with partners, I also talked about fractional ownership, or the condo hotel opportunity.
You will hear more from me on this shared housing concept. I would like to hear from you about what you think. I will talk to some architects about the design and look for a site that will be suitable.