Updated: Nov 9
Coliving, co-housing, eco-villages... the housing crisis in Europe and the US have seen a surge in new (not so new really) ways of living. For social, environmental, (and economic at times), reasons, these advocate for a more collaborative and cocreated way of living. So what are the two main perks of community living? Beyond the financial incentive, which at this stage is still not always a given, we identify two main impacts: one pretty obvious, decreased loneliness, and one not necessarily immediately obvious, increased overall well-being.
1. COMMUNITY LIVING INCREASES WELL-BEING
Did you know there are five actions you should experience daily to improve your well-being according to the New Economics Foundation? They are very simple and accessible:
And yet, few of us actually get to tick them all off in our modern society day to day-to-day routines.
What we observe though is that people living in community-based housing (coliving, cohousing, eco-villages) get those five actions served on a plate daily:
They easily connect with their housemates or neighbors throughout the day through proximity (same room, same floor, same common house…)
These daily encounters create opportunities to help each other out (carrying things in, giving advice, fixing pipes…)
Living with others will make you notice your environment more: how things have been moved around in a shared space, how the garden has been replanted, how the Christmas decorations have been put up... because you are not the only one in charge, the little things take more meaning.
Through positive peer pressure but also through the way those spaces are usually designed (fewer cars, more space for sports and movements) they are more inclined to join physical activities
Every little chat in the hallway and big debate over the shared kitchen counter is bound to teach you something new
What could be described as a busy and social week for someone living alone, is an everyday occurrence for a resident of a coliving or cohousing project.
2. COMMUNITY LIVING DECREASES LONELINESS
Making friends as an adult, understand, once you’ve left school, is hard. Everyone will tell you. It is not so much that you lose the ability to make friends it is just that everyone’s priorities are shifting and before we know it we’ve got a mortgage, a full-time job, a side hustle, a pet fish, a partner, and no friends to go out with on a random Wednesday night.
It’s so easy to get ‘trapped’ in the comfort of our daily routines and miss out on opportunities to meet new people. Small talk scares us, and we feel more connected to “Friends” on Netflix.
In all seriousness, loneliness is a real epidemic nations are struggling to contain and for which the only vaccine could well be... living in community.
According to sociologists, the three essential conditions to be able to build true friendship are proximity, repeated and unplanned interactions, and a setting that encourages people to confide in each other. Conditions that seem harder and harder to meet as we grow older and are burdened with more responsibilities and less time to spare, no matter where we are in the world.
Community living provides us all with exactly that; a home where we live close together, with shared living rooms and kitchens for repeated and unplanned get-togethers, and community values that allow for everyone to open up.
That’s it. The magic. As simple as that.
Simple? Not really. That is of course the "sciences-backed" theory, and the reality for many spaces I have had the privilege to explore. However, many factors will impact a community living experience: the length of stay, the quality of practical and emotional onboarding, the type of management (top-down, bottom-up, self-run...), and of course, the space itself.
---------- Adapted from my book "Have Your Cake and Share it Too".