Co-housing: Not your grandparents' communal living

Imagine an extended-family community -- minus your mother-in-law -- where like-minded friends are your neighbors. You regularly share meals, birthday celebrations and a lifestyle vision, yet your living space is private. A collaborative-housing complex, with people you like.

That lifestyle is called co-housing, and it's caught on big time. The movement, in which participants help design the communities of single-family and attached homes from the ground up and make joint decisions about how they're run, numbers about 120 communities nationwide and hundreds globally, according to Craig Ragland, executive director of the Co-housing Association of the United States and a member of Songaia Cohousing Community near Seattle, Wash.