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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cohousing by Any Other Name: A Framing Study Exploring Ideological Barriers to Adoption of Collectivist Housing Options


Recent research suggests there is broader interest in cohousing in the US than its current niche market suggests. However, the lack of ideological diversity among cohousing adopters does not seem malleable. Cohousing adopters are predominately liberal and liberal ideology strongly predicts interest in cohousing. This research explored perceptions (including misperceptions) of cohousing and tested whether framing the concept differently could make it more appealing to Republicans and conservatives. Survey participants were randomly assigned to receive one of two versions of a survey, identical in all ways except in one version the term pocket neighborhoods was substituted for cohousing. Results revealed substantial misunderstanding of the concept of cohousing, particularly that it involves multiple unrelated households living under the same roof. There was no framing effect; those who identified as Republican or conservative did not find cohousing more appealing when it was called pocket neighborhoods. The most cited perceived benefits of cohousing were social interaction, relationships, and support, while lack of privacy and personal space topped the list of drawbacks. Understanding these common perceptions about cohousing can help stakeholders communicate more effectively about this model that promises many benefits to an apparently untapped prospective market.

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