The terms are confusing and fluid.
Cohousing and co-housing (often used interchangeably) are most often used to mean a group of small homes within a neighbourhood where they share some common grounds and facilities, and occasionally gather for meals or other activities.
One developer has suggested that this model, which originated in Denmark, should be known as cohousing (no hyphen); but co-housing with a hyphen should refer instead to shared ownership of a single home, with some services included.
We’re not sure there’s any authority behind that suggestion, but we have adopted this convention for this blog. When we say “cohousing,” we mean a neighbourhood. When we say “co-housing,” we mean a shared home.
There are other terms.
Coliving (or co-living) developments have gained some currency and buzz over the past couple years. People referring to coliving developments usually mean housing that’s targeted to young, mobile, “digital nomads,” social entrepreneurial types, coping with limited assets, high housing costs and a desire for community.
We’re not that young.
The venerable Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation adds “congregant houses” to the lexicon. They mean almost exactly what we do — “multi-unit buildings in which individuals or families have their own private bedroom or living quarters but share other facilities” — but in their terms, congregant houses are for people who need a variety of support services.
We’re not that old.
There are still other terms that have relevance — shared housing, co-ownership — but none is precise.
Shared housing, according to the National Shared Housing Resource Center, is when “a homeowner offers accommodation to a homesharer in exchange for an agreed level of support in the form of financial exchange, assistance with household tasks, or both.”
Co-ownership has its proponents and its detractors — especially when (mis)used as a form of estate planning, which seems to be the most common application. There’s also an Airbnb-like start-up that aims to help people co-own vacation properties as a kind of do-it-yourself time share.
Pending a better suggestion, we’ll keep talking about our shared home idea as co-housing, and other models as cohousing, and hope that people who are interested will work with us on figuring out what it all means.