Cohousing Model

After carefully analyzing the effects of changing demographics on housing, it is clear that we could utilize a retrofitting strategy that will protect public and private space, and that will ensure a sense of reciprocity between residents and their community. The retrofitting strategy must include the following: a consideration for an avenue for the aging population to voice their needs; diversification of housing options; and, a promise to be cost-efficient. More specifically, we are considering specific components, such as: a desire to age in place, a denser community, a less volatile tax base, and a social space. We propose that Hastings-on-Hudson adapt a cohousing retrofitting strategy.

Small scale neighborhoods created with resident participation which provide a balance between personal privacy and life in a close-knit community of neighbors. Individual homes enjoy convenient access to shared space, including a “common house” with facilities such as a kitchen, dining room, play room for children, workshops, guest rooms, office space, a sitting area and laundry.[1]

Cohousing is a process that involves community participation throughout the organizing, planning and executing of retrofitting plans. The cohousing models allows to integrate all the aspects of Hastings-on-Hudson governance and ways of life that residents wanted to maintain, while also taking into account the current and future changing demographics of the village. The elderly population of Hastings-on-Hudson will be able to voice their concerns and desires throughout the entire retrofitting process. A huge benefit of the cohousing model is the strong emphasis on community participation and feedback. Another advantage of the cohousing model is the emphasis on preserving social cohesion, all of which are outlined in Figure 1.1.  
This model will address human scale, walkability, public facilities, mixed uses for properties.

Figure 1.1 The image describes tenets of a cohousing retrofitting strategy.
 Figure 1.1. describes tenets of a cohousing retrofitting strategy.

Human Scale

A human scale ensures that the limits of a community will promote and protect personal relationships. I recommend that each residential community be limited to approximately twenty-five homes.[2] A smaller community will increase a sense of security, comfort and civic engagement amongst its residents. Hopefully, residents of Hastings-on-Hudson will see good results such as the communities in Buffalo and New York City which have joined together to implement Aging in Place programs.[3]


Each cohousing community, would include stores, office space, and what Daniel Chiras and David Wann call “neighborhood enterprises.”[4] Neighborhood enterprises might consist of daycare centers, compost facilities, and famers’ markets. These community cornerstones would provide jobs for residents, create a sustainable local economy, and foster a familial relationship amongst residents.

Mixed Uses / Public Facilities

Surprisingly, in many of the cases, residents have decided to create the communal space[5].  For example, driveways and cul-de-sacs can be used for green spaces or preserved for yard sales, farmers’ markets, or places of leisure. Leisure and recreational activities housed in the same building as residents would be incredibly beneficial for the elderly and young professionals living in Hastings-on-Hudson. Also, space for different activities creates a more welcoming atmosphere for different people. This, in turn, could lead to younger homebuyers coming to Hastings-on-Hudson for housing that caters to a variety of families.

Wonderland Hill Development Company has successfully retrofitted communities all over the United States using the cohousing strategy. Above are links to examples of the communities. Chiras and Wann also suggest considering variety and coordination when retrofitting. However, residents have already said they do not wish for Hastings-on-Hudson to become a suburb or a city. Coordinating colors and styles would produce homogenous homes. Homogenous residences tend to be a characteristic of classic suburbs. We also want to stay away from changing designs because we do not want to change any of the aesthetics of the village, as to preserve its original beauty. Also allowing too much variety in housing could make Hastings-on-Hudson vulnerable to the suburban decay happening nationwide. Indeed, it is necessary to create affordable housing to serve the needs of the current elderly population in Hastings-on-Hudson. We also want to attract new homebuyers. However, we do not want to foster a community for slums. My proposal recommends creating intergenerational housing.[6]

To oversee the review, implementation, execution and, most importantly, evaluation of our retrofitting plan, I recommend that Hastings-on-Hudson-on Hudson relaunch the Comprehensive Plan Committee. Also, I recommend that Hastings-on-Hudson add representatives from the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Affordable Housing Committee, the Planning Committee and the Economic Development Committee to conversations about executing the implementation of the proposal. Each committee member would contribute information to fortify the interdisciplinary approach to retrofitting the village.

I recommend creating an incentive program to promote and encourage homeowners to retrofit single-family homes. The incentive program would make homeowners more comfortable with the idea of giving up their property for public use and see the benefits of it. After trading the property, homeowners would still keep their homes. For example, for residents to convert their large single-family homes to denser units, Hastings-on-Hudson would give funds to pay for the retrofit. Hastings-on-Hudson would gain more commercial property to rent or sale to residents. I suggest that Hastings-on-Hudson connect some of the single-family homes to create denser residential facilities. The original homeowners would be owners of the additions to the property. The properties will be intergenerational housing facilities. The proposed Hastings-on-Hudson Intergenerational Housing Facilities (IHF) would create what Wonderland Hills Development Company describes as “a neighborhood design that promotes community, sense of place, and environmental sustainability.”[7] These facilities would create a three to five residential units and multipurpose rooms. I hope that the elderly Hastings-on-Hudson residents, as well as new and young homeowners, will occupy these units.

To maintain the intergenerational demographics in the housing units, 50% of the space must be occupied by residents over the age of sixty-five and subsidized. The rest of the units will sale at market value. Furthermore, in the spirit of cohousing, the regulations and activities of each IHF will be governed by a community council comprised of the IHF residents. The council will uphold community values and reflect them through programming, communal activities and planning meetings such as the terms listed below (Table 1.3).

Table 1.3 Wonderland Hills Development Company Cohousing Principles ( Initially stating communal objectives will ensure the needs and rights of residents will be protected. Hopefully, programs, classes and social events in the IHF’s will reflect their community values.

Figure 1.3 Wonderland Hills Development Company Cohousing Principles ( Initially  stating communal objectives will ensure the needs and rights of residents will be protected. Hopefully, programs, classes and social events in the IHF’s will reflect their community values.

IHFs will help facilitate and encourage the “community dialogue” which Hastings-on-Hudson needs, according to village Trustee Bruce Jennings.[8] To foster a healthy space for community dialogue, I recommend bimonthly meetings with each IHF council. At the meetings, the council will plan activities for the upcoming month, discuss concerns of residents and provide a space to amend governing documents for the community. A member of the council would also serve on or meet regularly with the Board of Trustees to ensure that the IHFs are operating effectively and are aligned with the village’s overall objectives.

Essentially, the cohousing model allows Hastings-on-Hudson to integrate daily patterns of living with this sustainable retrofitting plan. Cohousing aims to configure communities so that “daily patterns develop that begin to weave work and home life together again.”[9] Exchanging private space for public space is vital for the project. To increase walkability, developers will connect driveways and create ”networks of walkways.”[10] To diversify housing options, some single-family homes would be connected to each other. Combining smaller homes to create larger communities will help make more public facilities for the aging and young populations. More spaces for leisure, adult educational opportunities, recreation, and fellowship are staples in the communities that Wonderland Hills Development Company has developed using a cohousing strategy.[11]

Author: Courtney Ball

[1] Daniel Chiras and David Wann, Superbia (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers 2003), 60.
[2] Chiras and Wann, Superbia, 51.
[3] Jane Humphreys, "Aging in Place in Upstate New York." Upstate New York Regional Review (2007).
[4] Chiras and Wann, Superbia, 51.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Charles Durrett, William H. Thomas, Patch Adams, A Senior Cohousing Handbook. (Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2009)
[7] Wonderland Hills Development Company,  "Discovering Cohousing,"  accessed 2 November 2011.
[8] "Interview of Bruce Jennings." Interview by author, 6 November 2011.
[9] Durrett, Thomas, and Adams, A Senior Cohousing Handbook, 18.
[10] Chiras and Wann, Superbia.
[11] Wonderland Hills Development Company,