Cohousing in Great Britain - a tipping point

Charles Durrett is a leading expert in cohousing, not only because he knows and understands the process, but because he has the experience to back it up. With over three decades of experience, Chuck lives the cohousing process and can work with others to realize it in themselves. His impact is worldwide, reaching far across the Big Pond, where cohousing is being embraced. 

Watch this video featuring OWCH.

In 2010, Chuck and Katie went to Britain and energized what is now a strong and supported cohousing movement. Old Women’s Co-Housing (OWCH). OWCH had been trying to get started for almost ten years and were dangerously close to giving up. Sarah Berger, and the UK Cohousing Network organized to have Katie and Chuck meet with OWCH and Hanover Housing Association, the involved parties. They worked through the nitty-gritty details—two hours of which was spent on trust alone—and in the end, they were able to move forward with the project, knowing that each side was going to uphold their side of the agreement. They walked up the ladder until finally a contract was signed, the project designed, and, at last, built.                                                                                           

In total, Katie and Chuck spent eight days in the UK, which included giving five public presentations. These presentations helped OWCH and other groups gather more members and move forward with their projects. The process that OWCH used and most of the new groups use is outlined in The Senior Cohousing Handbook: A Community Approach to Independent Living. Their efforts stimulated over 20 projects, to date, to be built in the UK, many with the support of a government and society who knows the value of community.

Since then, resources like SAGE Cohousing International (SCI) have been introduced to North America to provide resources to seniors interested in senior cohousing. SCI is a nonprofit organization whose board is comprised of experts in gerontology, cohousing, development, and team management. For more information on SCI, click below. 

OWCH members realized that they must be proactive about their future and what a bright future they have! It goes to show that, if you follow the cohousing process that is outlined already, getting your cohousing neighborhood designed and built is possible and much less work than reinventing the wheel. It is hard work, a thrilling ride, but the result is well worth the journey and it lasts for years to come.

The value of thinking about the "things"

Village Hearth Cohousing recently completed the Design Development and Prioritization Workshops (Workshops 5 and 6) with McCamant & Durrett Architects. Through the years, groups often ask me, “why do the workshops matter?” My answer is simple: Cohousing isn’t about reinventing the wheel. As you read on, you’ll see how the later workshops are just as important as the earlier ones and why each plays an integral role in the success of a cohousing community– in making it theirs, the one that fits like a glove, one that they own, emotionally. They are where trust it built. These participatory design workshops are where the community is built, not brick-by-brick but decision-by-decision.


Design Development:

At the surface, the Design Development Workshop (Workshop 5) is focused on stuff: hundreds of commercial products. The details and even the “stuff” have a profound impact on the success of communities, right alongside large-scale decisions like the site plan and common house design.

For example, consider your windows. A typical homebuilder in your area might select one window brand, while we might select another. There are many other reasons we have selected this window, but ease of operation and clarity of view alone make it ideal for senior cohousing; as you walk home and see a neighbor at the sink doing some dishes, you can wave to them, they can easily and quickly open the window, and you can chat or make a date to meet up at the common house. Altogether, the ensemble of products will form a tapestry that makes your house and your community feel like home.

This workshop is also important for the success of a community in the context of the development process. The Design Development Workshop is not just about energy efficiency, but that’s a big part of it. The process we facilitate -- based on years of experience and researching specifics to your region -- will enable you as a group to arrive at high-quality decisions by making effective use of your time and effort.



This workshop is where costs that are perceived to be potentially above the budget are prioritized. Amenities are prioritized based on lifestyle, sustainability, facilitating community and all of the other goals and values of the group. Some amenities can be offered as options on a household-by-household basis (e.g. washing machines hook-ups, etc.) and others omitted completely (and others added.) The workshop process ensures that all members’ input is included and evaluated, at the same time, with all the necessary information on the table, using a very deliberate process.

The Prioritization Workshop is a very values-laden workshop. While reconciling little creature comforts, it will be important and sometimes challenging to keep the big picture in mind (community, cost, aesthetics). Though these little creature comforts are equally important because if we’re going to make community real, we have to make it even more comfortable than typical homes—which turns out to be very easy to do.

Both Design Development and Prioritization Workshops symbolize a huge step forward to getting a cohousing community built, including maintain a control on budget and finding what works for the entire community. This structured and intentional process allows groups to arrive at high-quality decisions in a matter of months, rather than other communities we have watched arrive at lower-quality decision after years of wasted time and energy, too much acrimony, and too many people dropping out of the group as a result.


If you’re interested in learning more about how the design workshops can influence the creation of your community, let’s talk.

The True Costs of Senior Housing


Written by Lindy Sexton, based on an interview with Arthur Okner of Silver Sage Village in Boulder, CO

“We at Silver Sage strive to age-in-place. Given the caring support of our community, we can do so a lot longer than in many other aging care models,” says Art Okner. “Getting older is a long, fulfilling journey for most—you have a caring family, a good job, activities that you enjoy, and friends to share experiences with. These things ebb and flow in a thing we call life, and it’s hard to think of the future until one day you are there. The future belongs to those who recognize and prepare for aging.”

In his search for the optimal housing scenario Art found that, as a middle-class older adult, options are extremely limited. The current aging care model is an expensive process that promises little to no security or return on investment. Art researched a well-known Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Boulder. The CCRC requires nearly $250,000 to get in (for a small studio), then $3,000 to $7,000 per month after that (depending on type of care needed), very little of which is returned if you move out or die. “They are very choosy about who they accept financially because if you run out of money they must keep you,” describes Art. In another “non-continuous” care model, Art found out that, if you do run out of money, the facility will “place” you in a government or other such program and forget about you.

Art chose to live in Silver Sage Cohousing in Boulder, Colorado. He owns his home and has a secure financial plan. Art has his independence, but most importantly, he is surrounded by caring neighbors, who as a group, discuss how they can support each other as they age and become frail.

Living in senior cohousing was a no-brainer for him. “Senior cohousing is planning for your future in wholesale terms because there is no profit motive. [It] is the cheapest option in town,” says Art, “clearly the social benefits are there [common meals several times a week, for instance], but it makes sense economically too. Even if a senior cohousing resident needs regular outside care “a la carte” the costs are cheaper than institutional options. Senior cohousing should be on the short list of housing options explored by everyone at this stage in life. You can’t afford not to.”

Join the conversation! On May 19, SAGE Cohousing International will facilitate Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Starting a New Community, an all-day intensive on senior cohousing. Participants will have the opportunity to listen to members of Quimper Village, a new senior cohousing community being built in Port Townsend, WA, and cohousing expert Charles Durrett. This is your chance to have your questions answered and begin to envision what aging in community looks like for you.

Sign up now by clicking here.

If you would like more information about Silver Sage Cohousing, visit or email Art at and arrange a conversation or a visit.



SAGE Cohousing International and Quimper Villagers Co-present at the Conference

 Written by members of Quimper Village

We are thrilled to announce that three members of Quimper Village will co-present Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Starting a New Community with Chuck Durrett at the 2017 National Cohousing Conference from May 19-21. Carolyn, Pat, and David H. will talk about how they successfully formed a group, the importance of having roles with a group, and the latest updates on their favorite cohousing community, Quimper Village.  The all-day intensive will include valuable information for anyone looking to start their own senior cohousing project and participants will have the chance to brainstorm what their scenario will look like through breakout sessions and small group conversation.

Creating a senior cohousing community can be an exciting and very fulfilling life event, if the group knows what they’re doing. Quimper Villagers benefited greatly from finding complimentary skills from members within their group, and hiring Chuck Durrett (McCamant & Durrett Architects) and Katie McCamant (CoHousing Solutions) as consultants on the project. Through guidance and with a steadfast vision, Quimper Village is now nearing move-in in record timing.


Are you looking for the next steps to creating your senior cohousing community? Sign up today for Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Staring a New Community and then check out these two blogs for more information:  “Looking for the Next Steps in Creating Your Senior Cohousing Community?” and “The Roadmap and Why It’s Important to Have One".

The 2017 National Cohousing Conference offers a wide variety of topics of interest to co-housers from getting a favorable mortgage to running an effective meeting. There is still time to register for the conference being held in Nashville on May 18-21. We hope to see you there!

The Roadmap and why it is important to have one

Older adults around the United States (and around the world) are making a strong case for why living in a high functioning community is important to them, economically, physically, and socially. Many attempts to put seniors in community have proven to work short term, but funding and employee retention continue to strain these organizations. What seniors need (and want) is to be in the driver seat, to take control of their aging scenario. What they desire is to create their own community.

Wolf Creek Lodge, Grass Valley, CA

Wolf Creek Lodge, Grass Valley, CA

So, you’ve got the dream. But where do you begin to create your own community? How do you get others to join you? Who do you work with to help you figure it out? When you’ve moved in, what then? These questions are no doubt challenging to address and, if you don’t know what you’re doing, they can lead you down a rabbit hole with no end in sight.

I often hear from people at various points in their journey, looking for the next steps. In response to these inquiries, I will be presenting Senior Cohousing: A Roadmap to Starting a New Community, with SAGE Cohousing International. This is an all-day intensive, as part of the 2017 National Cohousing Conference in Nashville, Tennessee on May 19. It will give participants a concrete roadmap to move forward on their senior cohousing community, no matter where they are in the process. Learn how to get older adults in your region organized, get an overview of how to manage finances, learn how to secure property, and much more!

If you, or anyone you know, are ready to get started on creating the community of your dreams, a community that not only looks beautiful but also feels warm and giving, don’t miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime and sign up today!

Click here to register. I look forward to seeing you there!



chucks signature copy.jpg

R.I.P. Jan Gudmand-Høyer, a visionary in cohousing

Jan Gudmand-Høyer 1936–2017

Jan Gudmand-Høyer 1936–2017

The man who started cohousing in Denmark, and therefore the man who started cohousing, died Monday, March 6, 2017, at 81 years old. In 1964 Jan gathered together friends and acquaintances to talk about housing. He asked them to imagine a lifestyle and a place that did not yet exist, a place that could suit the needs of ordinary citizens, an intentional place that was different from what mom and pop, or grandma and grandpa had created for themselves. “What really makes sense for people in late twentieth century, western industrialized societies?” was his query. He recognized that different generations have different needs. Mothers were working outside of the home, families had fewer children, and folks were living longer. He wanted to figure out what would make it easier for them to actually express their values of living lighter on the planet while championing gender equality and increasing civic participation. He wanted to know what would make our lives more practical and more healthy. He wanted to create a way of life that made more sense. As they discussed it, notions of balancing privacy and community, private ownership and sharing, became recurring themes. He started with nothing but the intent to be truly responsive to real concerns, not perceived ones. Devoid of preconception on purpose, not wanting to rely on the rear view mirror, Jan spurred a self-development movement that spread throughout Europe, and then the world.

Jan and Charles Durrett walk through Skraplanet, one of the first cohousing communities built by Jan in Denmark.

Jan and Charles Durrett walk through Skraplanet, one of the first cohousing communities built by Jan in Denmark.

Jan was the quintessential communitarian, always seeking but always turning what he learned into practice. For example, as soon as read about Sardinia and their heightened and measurable demonstration of community, he went there to learn from them. Over the course of a month, he studied in great detail, of culture and nuance, of place and benches and chairs. When it came to healthy human interaction, no detail was too small. With great fun, in 2001 Katie and Jessie and I sailed the Mediterranean with him, his wife, Angels, and his son Yakai. As we entered each tiny port in Greece, Italy, or Turkey, it was fun to see Katie and Jan compete to be the first to exclaim, “Now this is community.” There we witnessed moms, dads, and grandparents on the wharf, playing dominos, breaking bread, and children running all around. Instruments came out at dusk, then dancing and singing.

Jan Gudmand-Høyer and Angels together designed well over forty cohousing communities, each one being the model for the next one, each one being better than the last. It was to the point, that the last time I visited him, he only wanted to discuss his latest, although many were stellar.

We loved Jan dearly. Jan was our greatest inspiration and mentor. He was truly the most humanistic person I’ve ever had the honor to know. He never lost faith in the human potential to build a healthy society one neighborhood at a time. We already miss you dearly, Jan.

MDA featured on the Greenpreneur Show Feb 2017

Michael Thomas, host of the Greenpreneur Show, sat down with Katie and Chuck in early February to talk cohousing. The Greenpreneur Show is a progressive radio show, based in Chicago, with a focus on environment and sustainability in the modern day. 

East Lake Commons, Architecture by McCamant & Durrett Architects

East Lake Commons, Architecture by McCamant & Durrett Architects

Starting A Cohousing Movement

I buy boxes of books for every project.

One for the banker (so it can sit on his/her coffee table until the spouse asks, “Why wouldn’t you finance this?”), to the next-door neighbor, to the planners, to the fire department – to everyone who needs to know about the cohousing project. The investment of giving books away for free is infinitesimal compared to the savings. To get the affordability that we need, we seem to always need major dis-compensations – half of the parking, twice the height limit or whatever, and many of them. The books helps all of the partners realize the why, and equally important, the why wouldn’t we? We can make it in an experiment or whatever method people need to see the benefit and therefore justify the exception.

When we were serious about getting cohousing started in San Francisco, I personally visited each bookstore (there were about 30 at the time). It took a weekend. I took a couple copies of the book and had a couple of newspaper articles in my hand to show that cohousing was getting press. Thousands of books sold in the San Francisco area immediately.

Once we got the books in the bookstore in San Francisco, we circled back to remind them to keep them in stock, see if they needed more and most importantly to insert flyers in them regarding upcoming presentations. We built a relationship with them. This is targeted grassroots organizing, but nothing fancy. I’m certain that that bookstore weekend, and a couple of model projects, has led to almost two dozen communities being built in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Quimper Village Senior Cohousing Community is successful, in part because the group proactively reached out to their community, sharing the book and the wisdom that came from them reading it.

Quimper Village Senior Cohousing Community is successful, in part because the group proactively reached out to their community, sharing the book and the wisdom that came from them reading it.

  • If you are forming a cohousing community, here’s how we’d go about getting the books, Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities and Senior Cohousing: A Community Approach to Independent Living, distributed in your town so that you can more readily and more likely get a cohousing project built there:

  • Go to local bookstores with the books in hand and copies of a news story about cohousing – there are plenty of stories out there, pick the juiciest.

  • Ask for the manager. Either way, introduce yourself and tell them about your exciting new cohousing community. Next, give them the book and a copy of the cohousing news, for their consideration. In a couple days, follow-up to make sure the manager has the book.

  • If you speak with the manager right away, ask them to order from your regional distributor, such as Ingram ( or the regional distributor.

  • If they don’t want to order the book from the distributor, offer them a couple of books on consignment. If it doesn’t move, you will come back and pick them up.

  • If they are still reluctant, give them the attached letter, written by an art gallery owner about her experience carrying a few copies of Creating Cohousing: Building Sustainable Communities by McCamant & Durrett. Read it first – it’s pretty inspirational. Give them a few days to look it over and check in again.

  • Libraries are also good places for the book. Walk up to your local librarian(s) and ask if they carry the book. Tell them about any cohousing-related events or other information about your group. If they don’t already, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to bring it in.

Soon after you get books in the stores, return with flyers and/or postcards about cohousing events and your group. Something that says, “Getting Old, Wanna Talk?” might be just the slogan to start your senior cohousing project. Of course, you would use a different slogan for an intergenerational cohousing project. Insert them into the shiny new cohousing books you see on the shelves so that everyone who thumbs through the book sees what’s going on.

Over the years, one thing has become clear to us at McCamant & Durrett Architects: Cohousing is so much more than a sound bite. Halfway decent grassroots organizing always is. When a wife (or the husband) has the book on the coffee table and the husband (or wife) flips through it over weeks and months, the book starts to seep in. Especially when some life experience happens, like lack of childcare so someone can run to the grocer or the absence of a neighbor to confide in. And then when a friend comes to the house and starts flipping through the book, well that seals the deal; “We’re going to look into this.”

This will get a movement started.