My thought was that this sounds like an interesting model for people who wish to live independently with a home-owning carer (ie nurse or doctor) as one of the residents living within the community. It developed int eh right way, it could potentialy eleviate some of our aged care problems...
John Mangan SMH
April 10, 201
Like-minded people are signing up for co-housing for a more sustainable way of living.
''PEOPLE often assume we're hippies,'' says Tania Lewis, as she explains a radical housing development she and two dozen other Melburnians are planning for the city's inner suburbs.
The concept is called co-housing, and it could hardly be further from a rural commune. When complete, the high-density inner-city development will comprise about 30 self-contained, privately owned residences, each with its own kitchen and living areas, sharing a building for group meals and guest bedrooms, and garden space including a vegie patch and chicken coop.
''We all believe in neighbourhood values and sustainability but also, working together, we expect big economies of scale,'' says Dr Lewis, a senior research fellow in RMIT's school of media and communication.
Inspiration for the project comes not from Nimbin but hard-headed Scandinavians, the same people who gave us Lego and IKEA. Dr Lewis says Denmark has hundreds of co-housing developments. Five per cent of all new housing in Denmark is co-housing, and it is becoming popular in the US.
Dr Lewis's group, Urban Coup, is an incorporated body including healthcare professionals, architects, urban planners and environmentalists. Over the past two years it has scoured Melbourne suburbs within a 10-kilometre radius of the CBD, looking for suitable sites and willing developers. It is also looking for a handful more kindred spirits to sign up.
Gilbert Rochecouste, a ''place-maker'' with community building consultant Village Well, says similar schemes have a good record overseas. ''Co-housing is a powerful model that can radically reduce energy usage and open up shared resources, while not asking people to live in a commune. It's about living sustainably in a community but still having your own private space.
''In between a Docklands apartment and the suburban sprawl, there are not many options. We need to start rethinking our models of development. Housing these days tends to assume one size fits all, which has cost us in terms of our well-being, both emotionally and psychologically.
''For example, co-housing gives grandma and grandpa the option to still live in the community, with their children and nieces and nephews, not having to live in a retirement village.''
Urban Coup members are stumping up $450,000 to $500,000 each, with the project expected to have a total budget of up to $15 million. Dr Lewis says the community will not be cheap to buy into, but the shared resources and economies of scale will mean substantial savings in living expenses.
An optimistic mission statement includes commitments to celebrate individuality and community, to respect each other's opinions and boundaries, and to regularly share food together.
As for conflicts, because the community is more united and integrated than a usual suburban block, they expect many typical neighbourhood disputes to be nipped in the bud.
They have, nevertheless, taken steps in their articles of association to structure conflict resolution, with a representative committee and, if necessary, outside mediation from such bodies as the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. A decision-making process includes a schedule of meetings and votes aimed at consensus. Failing that, a majority of 75 per cent not objecting can carry proposals.
Finding the right property is a huge challenge. Paula Jorgenson was part of Merri Cohousing, which spent more than five years planning a development in Melbourne's inner-north but found rising property prices torpedoed its intentions.
That group disbanded, but if the right opportunity came along again, Ms Jorgenson says she would jump at it.
''I don't like living behind a fence,'' she says.
''A more convivial arrangement was exactly what I was looking for.''
Co-housing sends out a message that we can live in a much more authentic, sustainable way, says Mr Rochecouste. ''Our planning laws and regulations need to shift, councils need to be educated as well as developers, but ultimately I think we're going to see a lot more mid-level developers taking this up.''
Dr Lewis says she is looking forward to the fun and benefits of being in a community.
''There are all the activities we can do together when the development is completed, but also we'll be able to share tools, share cars and save energy. Being in a single household is a very inefficient way to live.''