Shared Living (Covivenza)

Shared Living – Resources, examples and links

History of shared living

Shared living enhances the quality of life of the participants and addresses a range of socio-economic issues. Historically some form of shared housing has been the main housing form for many cultures. Going to this link shows how shared houses in the form of long houses were a part of many cultures all around the world like North American Indians, African tribes, Icelandic, Scottish, German and in many other regions. It is still a prominent part of the clan lifestyle in parts of China (check out the link) and Israel still has its Kibbutz

A courtyard approach to shared housing has a long history in many cultures going back to the Romans and include Chinese and Mediterranean cultures. Going back 3000 years, courtyards continue to influence design managing to create a sense of community, safety and scale. 

We in North America have mostly experienced shared living as extended family homes or as student housing at university, or staff housing, military housing, or even shared households when we were younger starting out in the world. It is also used to great success providing supportive housing for people needing more supports.

Interesting statistics about shared living

Since the second world war the number of extended family households had been on the decline globally on account of our increased mobility in work & education and to a large extent because the social safety net had diminished reliance on the extended family as a support vehicle.

While it has not been a prominent part of mainstream culture, it is certainly part of the mosaic of housing options that has proven successful in responding to many of the stresses of modern living. It offers relief in times of stress and maximum opportunities for person growth through the rich matrix of personal relationships.

Rekindled interest in the extended family has resulted in:

  • 10-12% growth between 1980 and 1990, and
  • - between 1990 and 2000 has seen another 38% growth in numbers (6/26/2007 USA Today)
  • - A recent article in Professional Builder Magazine called “Design trends in multi-generational housing” (access here) quotes statistics stating that there has been a further increase of 30% since 2000 of households with 3 generations of family members.
  • - The article goes on to say that if multi-generational is more broadly defined as two generations that one out of six adults live in such households. The means about 17% of all adults.
  • - The article also cites the very interesting information that in 1900 57% of adults over 65 lived in extended families.

The extended family form has traditionally been one based on blood or marriage but modern day extended families are more complex and have expanded to include common interest, hobbies, religion or what have you. New names are being adopted by some like Network Family, Complex Family, coabode, co-housing, collective housing, coop housing, multi-generational housing, extended family and others. We use the word Covivenza (meaning cohabitation) to cover off all forms of shared housing.

Examples, articles and links

Covivenza Co-Housing is a website developed particularly as a resource for people interested in shared living. The website authors recognized that while there was a lot of bits and pieces of information about shared living in a variety of places, there was not one good resource that looked at it in a comprehensive way. Therefore they developed the Covivenza C0-Housing website to provide information and service to enhance your shared living experience.

Roommates4boomers is a website developed for single women over 50 interested in shared living

A great shared living resource for single mothers called Co-Abode is available at

Another shared living co-housing option is explored on the following website out of Ontario. It is focused on active senior population.

This link is to an article about The Vancouver Collective House Network which consists of a number of shared households both owned and rentals. The Network is to assist them and promote shared living. Follow this link

The attached link is to the Walnut Street Coop in Eugene Oregon. It is a turn of the century duplex with a passage opened between the two homes. Purchased in 2003 through an interesting “community revolving loan fund”; they share 4000 square feet with 9 bedrooms, 2 kitchens, 2 living rooms, 4 bathrooms and lots of other amenities. Follow this link

This link is to an article called Shared Housing Takes Many Forms by Polly Nichol, Housing Programs Director with Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. In it she examines a number of shared housing options and speaks to the many benefits of the various options. Follow this link.

This site illustrates another option hitting the luxury housing market. This is happening in a number of cities and resort areas world wide.

This site offers another option by a housing developer in New Zealand with two owners sharing one home.

This site explores some statistics and speaks to the shared living option for older women.

The next three are examples of shared housing with various levels of support for active older folks able to function independently. Abbeyfield is a Canadian initiative which has been very successful is providing a high quality housing option for active seniors.

“Rebuilding Community in America” published in 1990 by Ken Norwood and Kathleen Smith from the Shared Living Resource Center in Berkeley, California is an excellent book on the history and benefits of shared living with some visionary design examples. It is probably one of the most far-sighted books on the topic.

Intentional Communities Website: provides information on the intentional communities movement including a searchable Communities Directory and hundreds of articles on community. Published by the FIC.

Communities Magazine at this link is an excellent resource publication to help start and support communities.

Many shared living examples are focused on an older population for the simple fact that many of the most interesting and innovative housing options are targeted to this population. However, there are also many examples that include the whole range of ages, genders, income levels and family types.

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