Co-housing has not yet taken off in Australia, BUT there is definitely interest, reports Sue White, freelance journalist writing for the Sydney Morning Herald. In Sydney – with sky high house prices and the rapid pace of city living – it seems some councils and community groups are now seriously considering co-housing.
“a group of privately owned dwellings where residents work together to enhance their sense of community, reduce duplication of resources and bring social and environmental gains to all.
Models vary, but a typical co-housing community may contain 10 to 30 dwellings where singles, couples and families live individually, co-operating in certain areas.
Most co-housing residents are owners who pay market rates for their individual house and a ‘slice’ of shared facilities, such as large outdoor areas and a common house.
But it is not all restricted to owners: co-housing communities usually provide one or two houses for low-income earners or renters – The Australian.”
In Sweden high status is attached to co-housing membership and everyone – doctors, teachers, lawyers etc – chooses it.
This consortium is made up of a number of groups including:
At Sydney’s recent Living Co-operatively symposium Swedish expert, Gun-Britt Martensson, said whether co-housing is beneficial depends a lot on mindset. While each house has its own kitchen, living areas and bedrooms are often slightly smaller than typical, as the extra space is used for large, shared backyards. The guest rooms and laundries are in the common house that forms the hub of most co-housing set-ups. Gun-Britt says:
“If anyone believes that we are going to cope with climate change effects by continuing as we are, they are wrong.
We have got to learn how to share. People who live in co-housing are still individualists. They don’t want to spend the whole day with their neighbours, they just want to co-operate on what is best done together, and then they want to do their own thing. It is not very difficult.
Working together and living together creates opportunities for living more environmentally. If you go to our co-operatives, most of them are experts in recycling…we also car pool, and as we live on an island, we have common boats to use on the lake for recreation…
All our co-ops have a common laundry room…some people find that very strange, but it has fantastic advantages. If you have four very good new machines, it costs much less to the environment than if everyone has their own.”
Regardless of affordability, in environmental terms living more co-operatively is clearly beneficial. Not duplicating resources is a focus and it makes life easier, for example:
There are dozens of co-ops in NSW, but overseas style co-housing is only found in two locations in Tasmania and one in Perth.
There is currently a Canberra co-housing site in the planning stages, the Living Co-operatively consortium now meets regularly and in Sydney the idea is gaining traction with state and local government.
Both Parramatta and Marrickville Councils are exploring more affordable ways to live and Parramatta Council is considering a pilot project that would turn a disused council property into a co-operative housing community.
How will we go giving up the dream of our own backyard?