Carehaus: U.S.’ First Care-Based Co-housing Project by artist Marisa Morán Jahn and architect Rafi Segal

Rafi Segal and Marisa Morán Jahn, Carehaus rendering.
ACT at MIT

Designed by architect and Assoc. Prof. Rafi Segal with artist and ACT lecturer Marisa Morán Jahn (SMVisS ’07) — Carehaus is the U.S.’ first intergenerational care-based co-housing project, employing an ethos of development without displacement in a historically-divested neighborhood. 

In Carehauses, older/disabled adults, caregivers, and their families live in independent units clustered around communal spaces where meals, pastimes, and shared care take place. The children and families of caregivers can socialize with elders which in turn reduces the cost of childcare. Communal amenities — a fully equipped kitchen, cleaning appliances, medical aid accessories, storage space, air conditioning — means the group benefits from shared expenses to reduce initial capital expenses and energy consumption. Caregivers receive stable jobs with good wages and various benefits; those needing care receive more quality care than they would normally be able to afford.

According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), caregivers in the United States make a median wage of $10 an hour, working under the poverty line and without sick leave. Coupled with the threat of an economic recession, caregivers feel pressured to take the work while they can in order to feed their families. Caregivers, largely composed of immigrant women, bear the brunt of America’s already fractured public health policy and weak workforce protection — and this impacts us all. When we fail to care for our caregivers, we in turn impact the health and resiliency of our community as a whole.

Carehaus is founded on the belief that older adults, disabled people, and those who care for them are integral to the well-being of our communities. Yet as a society, we have yet not begun to design for the increasing number of aging, disabled, or visually impaired people in our neighborhoods — nor design for those who care for them.

Through accessible architecture/design and programming, Carehaus enables residents to fully participate in a democratic society. 

Art is integrated into the DNA of Carehaus to activate, express, and pass on cultural heritages. Combined with culturally-relevant programs in partnership with local arts organizations, Carehaus improves cognitive health and creates a unique sense of place.

Carehaus leverages the expertise of students and faculty across schools and departments. Rafi Segal is an architect and Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at MIT whose work focuses on how emerging notions of collectivity can impact the design of buildings and cities.

Carehaus builds on the “CareForce,” a project involving two mobile studios, an app, and PBS/Sundance film by artist and Lecturer in Art, Culture, Technology Marisa Morán Jahn in collaboration with caregivers and advocates. Segal and Jahn’s third partner is real estate developer and urban planner Ernst Valery, a former MLK Fellow and current CoLab advisor; Carehaus’ CFO is Ellen Itskovitz who brings her expertise in the intersection between healthcare and finance. 

The Carehaus extended team includes many MIT alum, faculty, and community members. The design team includes MIT alumni Alina Nazmeeva and graduate students Melissa Concetta Waddle, and Paul Gruber; contributing researchers include undergrad and graduate students Adiel Alexis Bénitez, Sarah Rege, Meghan Timmons, Nina Huttemann, and Alberto Luís Meouchi. Advisors include former MIT Sloan lecturer Colleen Keegan.