19 Nov 2015

Co-Housing design solutions for Australia’s housing affordability crisis

Buying a Home | Lifestyle | Tips and Advice

Is co-housing in part a solution to our housing affordability crisis?co-housing

We are all too aware that current and future generations are unlikely to achieve the Aussie dream of home ownership.  At best if they are able to enter the property market they are likely to be burdened by excessively high mortgages which are highly risky with the rising trend of job security instability.

There is a solution through housing design which has recently come into effect in Australia and has the potential to become more common as first home buyers from the next generation join the market and the numbers of single retirees continue to increase at a rapid rate as the population ages. This design solution is known as co-housing.

Co-housing is different to dual occupancy; it is not shared houses, communes, duplexes, granny flats or multi-unit housing.

So what is co-housing?

Co-housing is:-

  • The purchase (or re-use) of a small single dwelling block of land and the building of 2 to 3 small dwellings on it.
  • Dwellings that are constructed (or adapted) specifically to provide shared areas whilst still maintaining the homes as individual units.

The advantages of co-housing are plentiful:-

  • Reduced home ownership costs.
  • Reduced home maintenance and running costs through shared utility bills, cars and household goods.
  • Improved sense of community, lessening of social isolation through greater interaction and facilitating the trading of services such as caring for the aged and young (babysitting).

If taken up even on a modest scale (say 10%) it will help reduce suburban sprawl.

Who is likely to benefit from co-housing?

The most obvious answer is families whereby several generations live close together and obtain all the benefits that co-housing offers. Thus grandparents (or grandparent) are no longer threatened by social isolation; grandchildren can afford to purchase in the rising property market and parents can still have a level of privacy and independence whilst still providing care for parents and children if needed.

Another hypothetical scenario could involve elderly friends or family members who need or foresee the need for nursing care in the future. In this instance, each party including the carer could have their own individual unit yet share resources including care, transportation, shopping etc.

There are a handful of co-housing developments already in Australia. One example is in inner Sydney Balmain where two cottages were renovated as a family complex containing three individual housing facilities.

Another is in Winston Hills in Sydney. This project (Illabunda) has 15 families in individual private homes with shared common facilities.

There are several other developments already constructed and many in the pipeline.

This type of development is, in my opinion, a great solution to many of our social and town planning problems.  Unfortunately, co-housing does not yet fit within government planning legislation, making the approval process difficult.  However given the benefits of this type of housing design for the general population as well as the government (in terms of infill housing without concentrated densities), I believe that in the not too distant future this will change facilitating the ease of development of co-housing.

Personally, I am very hopeful that co-housing will become a more common housing option in the future as I would greatly enjoy the opportunity to design such innovative housing solutions…

If you have a project please think of us, call Dion Seminara from dion seminara architecture today.

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