Despite some evidence the physical design and social structure of cohousing promote social capital, further research into the social health benefits is needed to support wider adoption of this model in suburban and city environments.

For the attention of: Planners, community housing providers, cohousing interest groups and researchers.

The problem: Cohousing is one form of housing design often touted as fostering social capital. However, there is a need to examine the evidence this claim is actually based on in order to see if this model should be more widely adopted in suburbia and city environments as an alternative form of housing.

What we did and why: Used 28 academic databases to locate 37 research papers for a scoping review of the social health benefits of cohousing to see the suitability of this model for improving social connectedness within suburban areas.

What our study adds: The physical design of co-housing models and social processes contribute to both bonding and bridging social capital, nevertheless, there were a number of limitations in the studies reviewed, including cross-sectional designs and small sample sizes.

  • A key finding and recommendation from this review is the need for more robust research of cohousing models to determine the benefits for social health

Implications for city policy and practice: Planners and developers have evidence to design cohousing communities in inner suburban areas with the physical layout required to theoretically promote social health. However, steps need to be implemented in the process (e.g. involving potential residents in the decision-making) to ensure strong connections are fostered in practice.

Those involved in existing communities should also look to more formally evaluate the success of their projects in terms of social health to ensure a greater evidence base.

For further information: HOME: A Deakin University Research Hub. Providing evidence-based, community-tailored housing and social inclusion strategies

Full research article: Cohousing as a model for social health: a scoping review by Elyse Warner, Emma Sutton and Fiona Andrews