Shared housing might sound like a big step—and in many ways, it is. At the same time, it's something all of us have done, for much of our lives. When you think about it, sharing living space—with parents and siblings in our childhood home, cabin mates at camp, roommates at school and beyond, and partners, spouses, and our own children later—is the rule rather than the exception.
And for good reason: Sharing a home is economical, sustainable, convenient, and just plain fun. We can benefit from shared housing in countless ways:
- Shared housing saves money. Whether you co-own a house, live in a cohousing complex, or share a group house, you share more than the rent or mortgage. You may share the cost of utilities, maintenance, insurance, landscaping, property taxes, and major repairs. Shared housing also makes it easier to share services (such as childcare) and material things that most households own alone, such as laundry facilities or a tools. It also allows for volume discounts through bulk buying.
- Shared housing is a gateway to homeownership. Splitting the cost can make homeownership a real possibility for people who couldn't otherwise afford a large down payment.
- Shared housing can get you more for your money. When you share housing, you can also share the cost of amenities that you couldn't afford on your own, such as a hot tub, swimming pool, or large yard.
- Shared housing helps seniors and people with disabilities. The interdependence that comes with shared housing can ultimately bring a great deal of independence. Shared housing reduces the cost of living and allows residents to share the cost of in-home care and other services.
- Shared housing creates community. Shared housing brings all the benefits of having more people around. For single parents, shared housing can provide added support. For only children, there are playmates. For the elderly or people with disabilities, there is less isolation.
- Shared housing facilitates convenience. In shared housing, there's probably someone who can lend you that missing ingredient for your dinner, let you in when you are locked out, or provide one of those teeny-tiny screw drivers when your sunglasses break.
- Shared housing saves the planet, affordably. Three-fourths of the lumber consumed in the United States goes into homebuilding. The construction of new housing also causes suburban sprawl and takes over former wetlands, deserts, and forests. Once built, a house continues to tax the planet through energy costs and material use. When we share, we use less energy and less stuff, and we can better afford sustainable materials and energy sources, such as solar panels, better insulation, or a grey water system.
There are countless ways to arrange shared housing, each involving a different degree of sharing. Shared housing usually includes a combination of private and common spaces. People may share a single dwelling unit or share common spaces bordered by multiple units. Some shared housing also entails cooperative activities, such as mealsharing, and the sharing of household goods and services.