Why Cohousing Communities eventually die

There are no widely available statistics or comprehensive data on the exact number of cohousing communities that have disappeared or dissolved over time. Cohousing communities can vary significantly in terms of size, location, and organization, making it challenging to compile comprehensive data on their longevity and dissolution. This would require primary research.
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The causes for a decline are well documented: the changing demographics, governance issues, economic challenges, burnout, and external pressures. From our experience over these years with Gamified Cohousing, we could make the bold claim that the majority if not all cohousings die. To know these problems well means we can find solutions:

  1. Changing Demographics:
    Cohousing communities are often founded by like-minded individuals with a shared vision for community living. Over time, demographics within these communities shift, impacting the original cohesion. David Wann, in his book “Reinventing Community: Stories from the Walkways of Cohousing,” notes that “Cohousing groups can face difficulties as new members join, and the original pioneers age. Differences in values, expectations, and life stages can lead to tension and conflict” (Wann, 2005).
  2. Governance and Decision-Making:
    Effective governance and decision-making processes are crucial for the survival of cohousing communities. Without well-established procedures for conflict resolution and decision-making, internal disputes can erode community cohesion. According to Diana Leafe Christian in her book “Creating a Life Together,” “Unresolved conflicts and inefficient decision-making processes are major contributors to the decline of cohousing communities” (Leafe Christian, 2003).
  3. Economic Sustainability:
    Cohousing communities often require significant financial investments in the form of property purchases, shared facilities, and ongoing maintenance. Communities may struggle with financial stability, especially during economic downturns. As Karen Gimnig, a consultant for cohousing communities, explains, “Financial issues can be a significant threat to cohousing communities. If they cannot manage their finances well or adapt to changing economic conditions, they may face financial collapse” (Cohousing.org, n.d.).
  4. Burnout and Overextension:
    The idealism and enthusiasm that often motivate the founding members of a cohousing community may wane over time. Burnout and overextension can occur when community members are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of shared living and common tasks. Cohousing advocate and author Kathryn McCamant observes, “If residents feel overburdened by the obligations of communal living, they may become disillusioned and opt to leave, leading to the decline of the community” (McCamant, 2019).
  5. External Challenges:
    Cohousing communities may also face external challenges, such as zoning regulations, community opposition, or economic pressures related to the real estate market. These external factors can impact the community’s viability. As Cohousing.org, a resource hub for cohousing, warns, “The legal and regulatory environment can create obstacles for cohousing communities that may lead to their decline” (Cohousing.org, n.d.).

Before you read a whole book about this, what can gamification then do in all this?

Picture this: residents earn points for active participation in decision-making and completion of tasks, fostering a sense of shared responsibility. Gamified systems can turn mundane tasks into engaging challenges, mitigating burnout and keeping the community spirit alive.

The competitive edge of gamification can inject renewed enthusiasm, combating the demographic shifts that often lead to tension. Moreover, financial stability becomes a collective quest, where achieving economic goals translates into tangible rewards for the community. Gamification provides a platform for transparent financial tracking, ensuring that the community’s economic health remains at the forefront of its priorities. External challenges? Gamification turns them into strategic quests, rallying the community to overcome zoning obstacles and economic pressures. A cohesive gamified approach transforms adversity into an opportunity for growth. In the realm of cohousing, gamification becomes the catalyst for adaptation, communication, and adherence to founding principles. It’s not just a game—it’s a vibrant, interactive solution to the very real challenges that cohousing communities face.

Pedro Aibéo
09.11.2023

References:

Wann, David. “Reinventing Community: Stories from the Walkways of Cohousing.” New Society Publishers, 2005.

Leafe Christian, Diana. “Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.” New Society Publishers, 2003.

Gimnig, Karen. “The Cohousing Association of the United States.” Cohousing.org. [Online Resource]

McCamant, Kathryn. “Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves.” Ten Speed Press, 2019.

Cohousing.org. “Cohousing Resources.” Cohousing.org. [Online Resource]