Would you consider Co-Housing for retirement?
What exactly is Co-Housing? Co-Housing is a planned community with the goal of creating a great neighborhood with a lot of social interaction. The Daybreak co-housing project in Portland looks really neat. The complex is located in an urban area (3 miles from downtown) and is near the bus and light rail line. Think of it as buying a condo with an extensive common area and activity calendar included.
The common area at Daybreak consist of 7,000 sq feet on the main floor and basement. I see a great room, living room, kitchen and common dining area, family room, kids playroom, spiritual space, bicycle workshop, guest rooms, and more. These amenities are much more extensive than in a regular condominium building and are conducive to building a cohesive community.
Neighbors can share cooking and clean up duties and have a community meal as often as they’d like. Each individual units have full kitchens and dining areas so you can cook and eat in your own home as well if you aren’t feeling social. I imagine it would be like living in a big dorm where neighbors often hang out in the common area. Most condominiums have a gym and that’s about it. You rarely see your neighbors except at the annual homeowners association meeting or unless you make specific plans to get together. I think an extensive useable common area would improve this quite a lot. I want to make it clear that there are no staffs here and everyone help take care of the complex so it is not like a retirement home.
Co-Housing is very interesting to me because in the US where we take great pride in self sufficiency, it is difficult to ask for help. In other countries, neighbors and families are much closer. When we retire here in the US, we are much more independent and have to deal with most challenges ourselves. One of my older relatives fell on her backyard concrete patio and hurt herself, but there was nobody around to help. She had to deal with cleaning up and bandaging herself without any assistance. This got me thinking about co-housing as an alternative to retiring at home.
In a co-housing project, there should be plenty of young folks around who can help me open a jar of Ragu if I’m having problems with it. This Daybreak complex is big enough to house a diverse group of people ranging from young couples to retirees. They also have a buddy system where a new family is paired with a current resident who could introduce them to others and show them how things work.
The price of a unit in the Daybreak co-housing project is somewhat expensive at around 250k for a one bedroom unit and 350k for a two bedroom. You can buy an older 3 bedroom house in this area for the price of the one bedroom unit. I guess you are buying into the lifestyle and the community oriented ideal. The complex is built with sustainability in mind and incorporated many “green” features. I’m sure this contributed to the higher price as well.
Personally, I think the co-housing idea is great. I would love to live in a tight knit community where neighbors interact with each other more. When I was at university, I loved dorm living with tons of friends around and maybe co-housing would be similar to that. Once we retire, we will have a lot more time and can do many more community oriented activities. I would consider co-housing again at that time. I’m sure they will be more common in the future.
What do you think about co-housing? It seems like an ideal retirement housing to me, but I could be missing something. Does anyone have any experience with co-housing? How do you like it?
Updated with comment from Chris, a resident at the Daybreak community.
Well – as someone who lives in Daybreak, I’d like to thank whoever wrote the original post. But I need to point out that it is very definitely not like living in a dorm. We each have our own apartment/condo/unit and you could be entirely self-sufficient and hole up in your own apartment if you like. Although we have a shared laundry room, there is hookup for a washer and dryer in every unit. But the whole point of living in co-housing is in fact to spent time with other people, to share the challenges and the joys of everyday living. Some of us garden together and we all help keep the place running (no paid staff). Several here are indeed retired – and some of us who sure as hell wish we were retired. We have folks in their 70s and we have young families and everything in between; most of us are in our 40s and 50s. There are definitely lots of advantages to living in co-housing – you feel connected with your neighbors. We help each other – rides to the airport, taking care of pets when someone travels, and yes, being there when someone is sick or has some other kind of setback. We have impromptu get-togethers (“hey, who wants to go for a walk, or for pizza?” as well as planned, shared meals. We still have quite a few units for sale – and we also are happy to have renters. We’d love to have you come to a social and tour and meet us!