Cohousing is where a group of people get together and decide they want to design a housing development for themselves. Cohousing includes shared spaces and shared responsibilities. It began in Denmark in the 1970s.
The group submitted a response to the ACT Government’s Housing Choices Discussion paper requesting recognition of cohousing in the Territory Plan and the relaxing of certain rules which would make cohousing achievable in established suburbs.
Our goal is to deliver at least one cohousing development in the inner north by 2022 and provide advocacy for cohousing.
Our inner north cohousing development would be:
- Socially supportive
- Economically viable and
- Environmentally sustainable
The group formed in 2017 when three people discovered they were separately trying do something about cohousing. So they came together and formed Cohousing Canberra.
The group is made up of diverse individuals with a range of skills. The group includes design, building and sustainability experts, as well as people skilled in community engagement and development.
The group has three sub-groups working to answer the following questions:
- What structure will the group adopt at each stage of the project? For example will it be a cooperative or a company? We are looking at a range of structures, including the Nightingale model.
- How will we finance purchasing the land and then constructing the development?
- What will the ACT Government allow us to do? Currently cohousing is not defined under the Territory Plan.
The group meets monthly, with sub-groups convening at other times.
Why have we chosen the inner north?
Many group members currently live in the inner north and want to stay close to family and friends in an area they know well. The inner north also has some excellent open spaces, a good bike path system and access to the light rail and many local shopping areas.
What would it look like?
The final form of the cohousing project will depend upon the land purchased. However many members have expressed interest in owning a compact separate-title townhouse or terrace with a private courtyard. These preferences can be explored in design workshops in 2018.
Cohousing Denmark 2008. Image from Flickr Seler+Seler
What is cohousing?
Residents deliberately set out to develop a small community (on average 18 residences). Cohousing developments share the following characteristics:
- a common kitchen and dining room – with the sharing of some meals. A common house can also include guest rooms and working areas
- common areas like gardens and laundries
- more compact dwellings than traditional dwellings (often buildings are attached)
- an emphasis on pedestrian movement through the site (carparking is usually at the periphery of the development)
- consensus in decision making
Cohousing projects can remove developers and real estate agents from the property development process helping keep costs down.
Meltzer in ‘Sustainable community’ says “cohousing residents are prepared to live in more compact building types than they did previously”.
Cohousing in Australia
There are a number of examples of cohousing in Australia – here’s a selection below:
- Christie Walk, Adelaide: Youtube video
Includes a mix of stand-alone dwellings, townhouses and an apartment block on 2000sqm – shared laundries, gardens, common room. 27 dwellings.
- Westwyck, West Brunswick, Melbourne: www.westwyck.com
A converted former school into apartments and a 2nd stage of townhouses with shared outdoor spaces and bike shed.
- The Commons, Brunswick, Melbourne: www.nightingalehousing.org/the-commons
Apartment block includes shared rooftop garden with food growing
- Nightingale 1, Brunswick, Melbourne: www.nightingalehousing.org
Opposite The Commons – 20 apartments with average star rating of 8.2 stars with a shared 18KW solar array and rooftop garden (under construction during 2017)
ACT Architects have documented a range of different housing types that have been built in Canberra.
Cohousing for seniors by Institute of Sustainable Futures, Sydney