15 Nov, 2019

Could a co-housing development help you find your tribe?


Unsatisfied with the housing options served up by mainstream developers, a Sunshine Coast couple is exploring alternative responses to housing and whether there is sufficient interest in our community to explore co-housing or cooperative housing opportunities.

Architect Phillip Daffara and artist Denise Daffara have lived on the coast since 1994 and have been studying ways for communities of like-minded people to design the housing they want to live in instead of simply accepting what the market delivers.

Co-housing, also known as “deliberative development” involves bringing together a small tribe of people with shared values to launch a housing development that meets their diverse collective needs. It is essentially collaborative, cooperative and community-based development.

According to Phillip, co-housing is a method of affordable place-making that provides housing with access to shared resources that can include co-working spaces, laundry facilities, solar PV generation systems, tools, social spaces and communal food gardens.

It also has the potential to solve some of our great housing challenges including meeting the desire to age in place, reduce social isolation, contain urban sprawl and build housing that embraces the principles of good design.

“Co-housing is a way of practising more sustainable lifestyles with eco-efficient buildings and a shared vision. It’s an effective way to build adaptable homes that meet the needs of residents across their lifecycle, something not typically offered by speculative development,” Phillip said.

Photo of the Denise and Phillip Daffara

How does co-housing work?

While a spectrum of models exists internationally, there is no known co-housing project on the Sunshine Coast based on a bottom-up, resident driven co-design and build process, although some permaculture type communities or eco-villages could fall under the banner of co-housing.

The Daffara’s have a vision for a group or several groups of like-minded community members to come together and develop a project. The community members become the developers who invest in custom design and construction of a series of homes or apartments that meet their collective needs.

Co-housing is intended as a long-term proposition. To deter people from using the property as an investment, owner occupiers who sell out of the development within a certain period only retain a percentage of the profits of the sale. The rest is returned to the body corporate.

The size and nature of the development depends on the size of the property collective, the mix of future owners and their desired form of co-housing, within a preferred location.

Chrysalis Cohousing Values Diagram

The advantages of co-housing

While every co-housing development is unique, the benefits include:

  • Custom builds designed to meet individual and collective needs.
  • Flexible design that supports ageing in place.
  • The opportunity for different generations to live in the same development in separate homes or spaces.
  • Mutual support and connection decreases loneliness and isolation.
  • Affordability: the potential to slash the costs of development as well as cost savings due to the creation of collective resources, such as PV systems.

Existing models

A spectrum of delivery models exists internationally:

Baugruppen (Germany) A collective custom build initiated by the community using a design-driven, ownership based model. Most examples feature multi-storey, multi-family buildings. The advantage of this model is the potential to influence spatial design both collaboratively and individually.

Nightingale (Melbourne) Nightingale projects are initiated by architects who package the land and design to attract people to the development. The individuals form a collective, finance the build and move in. Housing is financially, socially and environmentally sustainable, with three projects completed and six underway.

Narara Ecovillage (NSW Central Coast) An intergenerational residential community of more than 300 people in 150 homes with members sharing a goal of becoming more socially, culturally economically and ecologically sustainable. The community features shared ownership of land beyond lot boundaries, along with a range of other common facilities.

WeLive (New York and Washington DC) WeLive is a more corporatised model with an emphasis on communal spaces designed to service mobile creatives. Residents can stay for a few nights or move in for a few months, with flexible terms and a range of different fully serviced apartment configurations.

Phillip and Denise are drawn to the Baugruppen model as one that could potentially suit a Sunshine Coast community-led development. However, they are realistic about what is involved in getting such a project off the ground, with complexity around securing land, legalities and financial considerations.

“The Baugruppen model requires a shared vision and a lot of energy, drive, commitment and patience,” Phillip said. “When you look at other case studies, it can take a couple of years from inception to fruition, even just breaking ground.

Starting a conversation

The Daffara’s are keen to connect with anyone on the Sunshine Coast who is interested in learning more or exploring options for co-housing in the region.

They’re hoping that, by starting a conversation now, in four to five years there may be more community capacity to start several projects.

“People will have different desires. Part of the process is seeing what level of interest is out there. Location one of the first filtering processes. Place and lifestyle are probably two main criteria in coalescing groups around a shared vision.,” Phillip said.

“Let’s say 100 people indicate they are interested to keep learning about this and 20 have a shared vision of creating something in a town centre by the beach. That group of 20 might continue on to develop their vision and their plan and co-create or co-design a custom build to suit their needs.”

A web page has been launched for people who want to find out more, check out the various models available and potentially connect with other people interested in exploring the co-housing concept further.

Check out Chrysalis CoHousing www.chrysaliscohousing.org

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