Definitions of Coliving and Intentional Community

The Nitty Gritty Definitions of Coliving and Intentional Community

Coliving is defined as a residential community living model that accommodates three or more biologically unrelated people living in the same dwelling unit. Coliving doesn’t necessarily imply shared values or purpose. For example, a college dorm, a long term hostel, or a shared apartment with roommates or housemates can be co-living. It could simply be to cut housing costs, without any planned interaction among residents. You might become friends, but to meet the definitions of coliving and intentional community, there needs to be a shared purpose that is part of what defines why you live with or close to one another.

Intentional community (IC) is defined most broadly as people having a common purpose for living with or near each other. This can include the most involved coliving situations such as income-sharing communes. On the other extreme, co-housing apartments or co-owned land could allow for much less involvement such as living separately in single-family houses as neighbors, who chose the housing development based on shared values or purpose such as ecological preservation. The term usually implies periodically taking part in the site governance process. Yet there could be minimal social involvement, not more than a periodic optional potluck. Intentional community isn’t making friends with whoever are your neighbors by chance. In an IC your neighbors, housemates, or roommates are chosen with intention of joining a defined group and their residences. 

Coliving community is a term that takes the coliving definition (three or more biologically unrelated people living in the same unit), and combines it with the “common purpose” definition of intentional communities (ICs). A coliving community can’t be socially distant, “just roommates” or just passing thru as a workshare while staying in a guest house. Still there can be some ambiguity about the definitions. If the guest house doesn’t have a kitchen, guests may have partial use of a shared kitchen or bathroom, which makes it a coliving situation. Or they may stay for a year or more working on a shared project, which makes it look like intentional community. The details of the living situation are less important than the intention of sharing resources and sharing decision-making.

For more about the benefits of coliving, see a free introductory course by Sharing Housing Inc. (not affiliated with or their blog with stories from people who have tried it.

Not a Focus of ICmatch: Coliving as a Temporary Cost-saving Plan

Corporate coliving spaces are bringing coliving back into the mainstream. In addition, house-sharing platforms have made coliving offers transparent and accountable by using ratings and/or moderating financial transactions. It may be considered coliving to house foster children, but it could also be considered paid care, a job as much as a labor of love. These are coliving situations, but this would not be considered a coliving community if there is (a) no shared values-oriented purpose, (b) primarily a transactional purpose, and (c) no planned regular interactions. These situations may be a good fit for you, but it’s not what ICmatch is about.

Not a Focus of ICmatch: Coliving Without Shared Governance Agreements

One form of coliving is a monastery (which has a beneficial purpose) or religious cult (which more often brings out predictable problematic human failures). These could be considered religious coliving communities technically, but these groups typically use their own resources for recruitment. This website is dedicated to connecting people for coliving communities with egalitarian or group governance, not autocratic. Another common traditional coliving situation is a sorority or fraternity house. The residents usually share a common background, and they have a common purpose of college attendance and even a traditional type of service project they may be known for doing once per semester. Sorority or fraternity houses might meet the technical definitions of coliving and intentional community, yet they aren’t governed in an egalitarian manner. Again, these situations may be a good fit for you, but it’s not what ICmatch is about. These types of institutions are well established, so they don’t need the help of ICmatch to find members.

Boarding houses used to be common as lower-cost rentals, but those who considered the residents to be an inferior quality of neighbor changed laws to prohibit boarding. Some municipalities are recognizing that zoning neighborhoods or an entire city for only single-family units has limited the ability of property owners to add on rentable units. It’s an important goal to increase affordable housing by opening up new legal structures, but to the extent these are merely transactional, governed under standard tenant/landlord legal agreements, these are not the focus of ICmatch.

Supported by ICmatch: Groups that Choose to Live Nearby or Together, Share a Resource, and Have a Shared Pro-social Purpose

Our Community Types page has 28 types of ICs described. Even if you meet the definitions of coliving and intentional community, if you’re doing so to promote the KKK then you don’t have a pro-social purpose. Any group that promotes violence, we do not support you to recruit on our site and will delete your group if this becomes known and substantiating evidence is provided.

Supported by ICmatch: Revillaging

Yves Smith writes that revillaging is a term that can cover a wide variety of intentions and actions. Revillaging includes: reconstructing public urban work-live gathering spaces, making sure all of the needs of a given resident can be met within a walkable distance including school and work, accepting interdependence as a value. Even if you aren’t ready for coliving, you can jump into transition town projects and other local resource sharing described in our page on Neighborhood Mutual Aid.

Supported by ICmatch: Join With a Family + Fair and Transparent

We are not policing the technical definition of coliving as “three people not biologically related.” If at least one of the members could not be legally defined as a dependent or joint head of household, in relation to another in the residence, then we consider that coliving. For example, you may be a family looking to add one member with shared values to your household, and treat them fairly, whether they are renting or contributing thru labor. We’re happy to help you find each other. This is a situation where it’s hard to find another service to meet your pro-social intention. You could use typical employment services, but this means you can’t ask some questions, such as about religion, which may be important and relevant to living in harmony together. See the Terms of Use and Safety Precautions for descriptions of authorized and unauthorized uses of this website.