Co-housing becoming the new norm in today's economy

Published: May. 14, 2013 at 8:01 PM CDT|Updated: May. 15, 2013 at 1:50 AM CDT
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UNDATED (KAIT) - Let's face it. The cost of living in the U.S. is expensive and isn't getting any cheaper.  To save money and pool resources we found many people have found new creative ways to put a very nice roof over their heads.

We aren't talking about getting a roommate, renting a room or moving back home with your parents.  We're talking about the growing trends of house sharing and co-housing.

We have the story of three baby boomers who merged their furniture, their wine glasses, their china and their book collections--- sold their old homes and bought this house together.  They joined two million other Americans over the age of thirty who have a housemate or roommate.

"It made amazing economic sense." said shared house owner Jean McQuillin.

Jean Mcquillin, Louise Machinist and Karen Bush are all are divorced, in their early 50's and have professional full time jobs.  They met at church and created what they call a "cooperative household."  Each woman has her own bedroom and bathroom. They share the common areas of the house, chores and expenses.

"We are all really busy we're hardly ever all here at the same time." said shared house owner Louise Machinist.

When the trio is home together, sometimes they throw parties, play games and dote on their shared "house cat".  Before they moved in, an attorney drew up this legal agreement addressing issues like: how long visitors can stay, what if a housemate wants to sell or leave, and what happens if someone passes away?  And they made sure they 'clicked'.

"On some level you have to share values in order to make things work." said shared house owner Karen Bush.

We found the idea of sharing values, chores, and sometimes even child care is sparking entire "co-housing communities" across the country. There are now 125 of these special developments.  Families buy regular homes which surround a main "common house with a common kitchen", a space for the entire community to share.

"Taking the stress off of parents in having to do everything for their kids and not sharing the load is really to me the heart of the American dream." said Rebecca Lane with the CoHousing Association of United States.

Not so interested in a co-housing community, but simply a shared house?

Experts say:

* Create an agreement on how to share expenses and chores

* Set boundaries outlining what you can and can't live with

* Check references of potential house mates

* And ask why someone wants to move

"You need to know that people are solid about paying, that they're going to be a reasonable person to be around." said shared housing expert Annamarie Pluhar.

Experts say communication and compromise are key to solving problems. Karen, Jean and Louise love their arrangement.

"You can make something wonderful happen if you can find the right people to do it with." said shared home owner Louise Machinist.

If you're considering someone as a house mate, experts suggest running a credit or even criminal background check on the person.

For more information on shared housing and co-housing communities check out these three sources:

Annamarie Pluhar , Shared Housing Expert, East Dummerston, Vermont

Pluhar has lived in shared housing for over 20 years and has developed a practical process for selecting housemates. She even wrote a book about it called: "Sharing Housing: A Guide for Ding and Keeping Housemates."

Jean McQuillin, Louise S. Machinist and Karen M. Bush, Lives together in shared housing, Pittsburg, PA

These three working professional women just finished a brand new book about their shared housing situation called "My House, Our House."

Rebecca Lane, CoHousing Association of US, Seattle, WA

Lane is the executive director of Cohousing Association of the US. It helps promote and facilitate cohousing communities. Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.

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