It’s difficult to find reliable statistics about cohousing communities, but it appears that they are on the rise. According to the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, there are 6,400 housing cooperatives with 1,200,000 dwellings in the U.S.
Meanwhile, interest is quickly outpacing the stock. National conferences and other networks are popping up and people are flocking to find out how they can start or join existing communities, many of them graduates of colleges where co-ops are commonplace. The financing models are being reinvented so that a wider diversity of people can take part. And there is even a professional field growing up around it—architects, developers, trainers, and others who specialize in the specific knowledge required to develop these kinds of communities. As of June 2016, according to the Cohousing Directory, there were 162 established cohousing communities in the U.S., with another 130 in formation, acquiring land and homebuyers.
You don’t have to live in cohousing to be part of the zeitgeist, however. Grocery co-ops, collectively owned and operated businesses, are flourishing. As of 2014, The National Co+op Grocers represented 143 independent food cooperatives operating more than 190 stores in 38 states with combined annual sales of over $1.7 billion and over 1.3 million consumers.
At an even smaller scale, dinner co-ops are increasingly popular. They vary in structure, but the basic form is that a geographically close group of cooks agree to alternate preparing and delivering fresh food on weeknights; the idea is that you just scale up what you would already cook one night, and get a few nights off where you still get to eat home cooked meals.
Along the same lines, some people have home project co-ops; they pick one person’s house each month of the summer and all pitch in on a big project, like repainting the exterior or building a shed. It’s a way to spend time together out in the sunshine, get some physical exercise, and save money all at once.
Similarly, babysitting co-ops are popular among working parents with part time or flexible schedules, or those who just want to get a date night out every once in awhile without breaking the bank. It’s simply a system by which parents trade off taking care of each other’s kids.
Quote we love
One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.