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– The actual physical layout and orientation of the building or site plan encourages a sense of community
– There are common facilities or rooms that are designed for daily use and are an integral part of the community
– The residents manage their own co-housing communities, performing much of the work required to maintain it.
– Although leadership roles may naturally exist in a co-housing community, no one person or persons have authority over others. Decisions are made by consensus.
– The community is not a source of income for its members

An example of co-ohousing that incorporates these characteristics is found in Japan.

Located in Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, Kankan Mori is part of a 12-story building built on the site of a former public school in the Higashi-Nippori district. Kankan Mori itself is on the second and third floors of the complex, and other floors are occupied by an elderly care facility and elderly residences, a nursery and a clinic. The collective housing segment houses 28 small rooms (24 to 62 square meters each), along with a 166 square-meter common area space which includes a kitchen, living room and laundry. Some residents work at outside jobs, others are children or the elderly who have retired and live off of small pensions.

Living in a multi generational setting has a number of benefits. Residents all work together to prepare “common meals”, which are held three times a week and share responsibility for cleaning the common space. With their private rooms, adult residents are able to meet their own individual needs as well, such as caring for their children, or their aging parents. On the other hand, living in such communal tight quarters sometimes does not afford the privacy one would have in a large apartment complex. Let’s say you were concerned that you might have contacted a STD. You didn’t want to go to your regular doctor or a clinic, but wanted to test yourself in the privacy of your home. What to do? Yo go online and find this test kit for stds that permits self testing at home. Result are available in 15 minutes. You want to order a kit but are concerned the package will be obvious. Fortunately your fears are unfounded. The site assures you that the std home kit will arrive in unobtrusive packaging. Your privacy will be maintained. Well, perhaps that’s an extreme example of private versus communal issues. However, most people who choose to live in a co-housing community do so because they believe in its philosophy and understand that privacy is possible to maintain along side the communal aspects of such living.

One interesting event that occurred in the last year was the return of one of the residents’ children from the United State. As a child this person had recognizably crooked teeth. However, when he had returned after spending five years working for a casino in Las Vegas, he sported a fabulous set of teeth and a great smile. Everyone at first thought he had dentures, but it turned out he had had Invisalign braces Las Vegas style, as the residents now say. The Invisalign System has aligners that are made of a virtually invisible plastic. Consequently people don’t even notice someone is going through treatment. Needless to say, several of the residents were intrigued by the Invisalign System and found several orthodontic dental clinics in Tokyo who offered Invisalign braces for both adults and children. Anyway – though the private rooms are small, those 28 rooms hosts 36 people, from ages 0 to 80. And guess what? There are at least four residents that are now proudly showing off their new straightened teeth with wide smiles to all!

Kankan Mori holds an all-hands meeting regularly every month, where daily problems and concerns are brought to the table for solving. As well, residents also participate in some “activity groups” in order to maintain the building or to do light work. The emphasis here is more on belonging to their community, less than on simply reducing the housekeeping workload.

Kankan Mori is a unique urban management system, which puts residents in an very active role in deciding what’s best for their community environment. And by the looks of it, it seems to be paying back in handsome dividends.