Housing projects are communities that have special wishes for social interaction. They want to develop good contact with their neighbors. Living together should also stimulate joint activities and, above all, promote mutual support. Housing projects offer alternatives to isolated living and the anonymous atmosphere of charmless neighborhoods that have nothing more to offer than a retreat behind one’s own apartment door. Living communally means also finding shopping facilities, jobs and cultural offerings in the neighborhood.

Those who live in a housing project take responsibility for their residential location. The neighborhood develops according to its own needs and with the participation of the people in a neighborhood. Different age groups in different social situations, different life models and origins form a long-term stable living environment. Housing projects organize many things themselves in their founding phase, in the construction of the property and in the later life in their apartments. They can be organized in a variety of ways, ranging from homeowners’ associations and cooperatives to unions and rental house models.

Community living: Forms of living together

Community living arrangements can be realized in many different ways. They differ in the extent to which community living is organized. But they also differ from one another in their economic conditions. The models range from the individual apartment in ownership to the cooperative. The basic forms can overlap and merge in many ways. The most important models are:

  • Individual apartments – owned, leased or rented. Tiny houses are also included
  • Coliving – Commercial rooms or apartments with common areas and utilities
  • Cluster-apartments – small individual apartments with generously sized common rooms
  • Community housing project – Individual apartments rented or leased for use, and includes common areas. The building is under common ownership
  • European city – Different forms of community living are mixed in a neighborhood and complemented by infrastructures (shopping, work, culture)
  • Ecovillage – self-contained settlement with individual houses or apartments, supplemented by central communal areas

Community living: the legal forms

The legal framework for this form of living is as diverse as the various models of communal living. Again, there is overlap between all the options. The main legal forms of organization represented throughout Europe to date are:

  • Renting – An owner rents out apartments in his building specifically to people with a desire for communal living. This includes, but is not limited to, coliving or shared living arrangements. The occupants have no significant rights other than those of a tenant. A special form is the rental house syndicate. Here, the residents set up their own company that owns the building and in which the residents have a say.
  • Owners’ association – apartment owners join together expressly with the desire to establish a communal form of housing. It usually integrates common areas into the building
  • (non-profit) housing cooperative – people with a desire for communal living join together, jointly operate a building, in whose apartments they receive a right of residence. If economic profits are excluded, the cooperative operates on a non-profit basis.

Housing projects are characterized above all by the fact that they establish neighborhoods that create a stable social environment. Behind this is the need to feel at home in the place where they live. And not just for the next four years, but perhaps beyond the adolescence of children and into retirement. This includes finding everything in the residential environment that is necessary for one’s own care and relaxed leisure activities without commercial constraints.

Throughout Europe, this has now become the model against anonymous residential quarters or endless single-family housing estates. In many places, policymakers have clearly recognized the advantages this offers for the stability of life and the economy. It is therefore worthwhile to continue to persuade people and show that self-determined living is by no means a disturbance of public order and the economic interests of special groups of investors.

Richard Scheibel, Housing Project Advisor, www.projektentwicklung.lu

To find out how a nonprofit cooperative puts community living into practice, visit the site of Adhoc.