The benefits of communal housing correspond to the three basic needs categories of people: material, social and basic needs for self-implementation.
Material needs include safe shelter and both essential and luxury goods. Social needs include the need for proximity, the need to be valued or loved and the need to feel connected and being in a group. The needs for self-implementation include being special, having your own space and implementing yourself. People look for their place and want to do things that matter.
Social benefits - good people are close
Friends are close. The community idea often starts from the table conversations of a group of friends who think that it would be nice to live closer. Why not share your everyday life with dear friends? When you live closer, it's possible that friends become closer. The time spent together and the shared challenge to maintain and develop a residential community can deepen friendships to a new level. In the beginning, you can learn to know your co-residents fast and get a lifelong friend.
Learning to know different kinds of people. Not all members are chosen and there will certainly be people that will not become your best friend. However, it is good to learn to act and make decisions together with very different people. This will develop your understanding of the richness of diversity and develop your social skills.
Expanding networks. Friends and acquaintances of other residents form a larger network of light social ties. Through it, you will learn to know people who do things that are new to you. These light links provide new and interesting opportunities that were previously unavailable. For example, you can hear about interesting events that are new to you.
The threshold to invite people over is smaller. Larger groups do not fit in a one-room flat, and a small mess in the home makes it more difficult to invite others to your home. In shared spaces, the order is maintained as agreed and it is easier to invite people over to them.
Fast spontaneous moments together are made easier. ‘Let’s go jogging, now.’ ‘I’ve just finished cooking, would you like to join me for dinner?’ You don't have to book time in advance in your calendar, and transitions are fast. It is easier to do things together with people who live close by in the same residence.
Material benefits - sharing can give you more
A shared square foot is better than a personal one. By putting the squares together, small spaces become spacious, easy to use and attractive. For example, the building's shared sauna with its fireplace room and roof area for cooling off sounds a lot more attractive than a small, sweaty sauna of a one-bedroom flat. In addition to a private bedroom, there are plenty of shared facilities in a group rental apartment.
Sharing enables better quality. When some of the facilities are shared, they are paid together. Thus living costs less or is of a higher quality.
Joint ownership. If equipment or goods that are less often needed or expensive are purchased together, sharing enables better selection and quality.
Borrowing and lending is possible when the neighbours are familiar. One might borrow a drill, a sewing machine or a kayak.
Joint orders The community can order food from a community food club or food waste service and save money and time. You can invite a massager with a travel table to the community, in which case they will receive more customers at once and the residents will receive the service at home.
Benefits of self-implementation - life becomes more meaningful
Sharing skills is easier. When people are close, it's easy to exchange little favours. People feel valuable when they are able to share their own competence - even if they are only one step ahead of others. The skills learned during life are passed forward and bring pleasure for others.
Time saved from routine tasks can be spent on something more important. Sharing tasks saves time, which can be used as you please.
Even a ‘difficult person’ is important. All groups always have that one annoying person. You can have a constructive view on this person and think of them as the community critic who sees the shortcomings and potential pitfalls. These issues can then be fixed, or one can prepare for them in advance.
Together, you can achieve things that are bigger than yourself and aim for a goal that is bigger than yourself. Some communities aim for higher goals, such as ecology, spiritual growth or societal impact. By simply taking part in a new type of community housing project for ordinary people, big things are done for others in the same situation. This will improve the living experience in Finland and leave a better place for the generations to come.
The author is an expert in communal housing, architect Johanna Kerovuori.