It is a model that has worked for centuries: multiple generations living together under one roof while sharing the responsibilities of maintaining a home. If you take a look at US Census reports from the 19th century it wasn’t uncommon to see large families, sometimes 12-15 in number, sharing space in the same house. In the 20th century, the trend continued as Americans struggled through the Great Depression and later, World War II. As our men went off to war, young wives and mothers came together with their sisters, mothers-in-law, aunts, and cousins all living under one roof. Shared living became a way to emotionally support each other through the hardships of war, while also divvying up household responsibilities and childcare. As the country experienced more prosperous times after World War II, multigenerational living began to dissipate as adult children once again lived separately from their parents.
Today, as we roll into the 21st century, a new era of cohabitation has sprung up across the country. Sharing space under the same roof is back en vogue with both like-minded strangers and lifelong friends making the decision to bunk in together. In California, homes like the Sandbox House and Rainbow Mansion attract young, ambitious housemates interested in collaborating socially, professionally, and economically. Rather than using social media to connect, residents have their own network within the very walls of their home. House like these even have their own websites and an online application for interested residents. Waiting their turn to do a load of laundry is just a small trade-off for the many benefits residents enjoy from cohabitation.
Aside from California, states like Maine, North Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland and Pennsylvania are also seeing communal living crop up especially among baby-boomers approaching retirement. Valuing the idea of a mortgage and a quieter life style, some empty nesters have chosen to forgo their large, but now empty, family homes and live under the same roof as their friends. Properties too expensive for an individual couple are within reach when two or three couples pool their money together. Couples enjoying this co-householding model appreciate the shared responsibility of maintaining communal areas such as the kitchen, living rooms, and yard. Yet each couple can still enjoy their own private bedroom, bathroom, even office or studio space. And of course if a big expense does pop up, like replacing the roof they all live under, it is just a fraction of the cost.