Cohousing is where a group of people get together to design a housing development for themselves. Cohousing includes shared spaces and shared responsibilities. It began in Denmark in the 1970s.
Cohousing Canberra formed in 2017. The group aims to be the first cohousing development to be approved in the inner north by 2022 and provide advocacy and support for other groups and individuals interested in cohousing.
The group is awaiting the outcome of a submission made to the ACT Government in May 2018 to become a demonstration housing project.
The inner north cohousing development would be:
- Socially supportive
- Economically viable and
- Environmentally sustainable
Why 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.
Workshop with architects, like Rob Henry, on issues like building heights, carparking & alternative travel options & affordable housing. April 2018. Image: Edwina Robinson
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 future design workshops.
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.
May 2018 Submitted proposal to ACT Government ‘Housing Choices’ to become a demonstration cohousing project. Plan includes 30 dwellings. This would include a mix of apartments and townhouses and include 20% affordable housing. Shared facilities include: a shared workshop and bike shed, a common house and gardens.
May 2018 Submitted grant application under Housing Innovation Fund to incorporate affordable housing into a cohousing development.
April 2018 Ran a workshop facilitated by Mark Spain, SEE-Change, Chair on issues around affordable housing, building height and car parking/alternative transport options.
April 2018 Held first Annual General Meeting
April 2018 Became an Incorporated Association
March 2018 Submission to ACT Government on Section 72 Dickson
March 2018 Submission to 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.
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.
Other examples of innovative housing (though not strictly cohousing)
- 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