Liveability Guides

Cohousing offers greater accessibility to the benefits of intentional community living to a broad population, notably the home-buying middle-class and senior citizens (boomers) who want to live in a more community-orientated neighbourhood.

Guide to Co-housing and Collaborative Housing

Centre for Liveability Real Estate

Collaborative housing is a movement that’s revolutionising the way homes are designed, built, lived in and valued. It encourages participation, sharing and community-building, while recognising that every household wants privacy, security and financial autonomy.

​What is it?

By enabling residents to share costs and pool resources, collaborative housing can make buying or renting a home cheaper. Add this to the benefits of living in a connected, supportive community and it’s easy to see why the movement is growing!

Collaborative housing is shaped by the people who’ll live there and is specifically designed to encourage social connection and be more affordable. It’s a broad term that covers a variety of housing types, but there are a few common features:

It contains a mix of private and shared space – residents agree on what’s private and what’s shared, allowing them to live more affordably and build a sense of community.

  • Sharing typically extends beyond the buildings to include vehicles, equipment and resources.
  • It’s designed to encourage informal social contact, whilst also allowing for privacy.
  • Residents have formative input in design and play a significant role the ongoing management of the community, though the level of input and how things are managed will vary from project to project.
  • Residents may be extended families, a group of friends, or strangers who’ve connected because they share a common vision for where and how they want to live.
  • Collaborative housing comes in all sizes, from a few homes sharing a single block to much larger developments. By incorporating sharing, it makes more efficient use of land than comparable developments.
  • Collaborative housing can be for both owners and renters, and there are options to suit all ages and demographics.

There is a spectrum of collaborative housing, from alternative to mainstream. It entirely depends on resident preferences. At the alternative end are ‘intentional communities’ like Narara Eco Village, and at the mainstream end are examples like Nightingale or Balmain.

Although communal and inter-generational living is not a new concept, collaborative housing is a recent addition to the landscape of mainstream housing choices in Australia. It’s a movement that’s
well known in northern Europe and parts of the US, and it is gathering momentum in Australia as awareness of its potential and many benefits grows.

For more information including resources to get you started see

Cohousing – Background

written by Gilo Holtzman B.Des.(Arch) | Mast. Architecture

View from the communal garden, Cascade Cohousing, Hobart, Tasmania. This was the first community in Australia, established in 1991, and has 16 small-footprint, passive designed households, housing 20 adults and 16 children.
Picture credit: Gilo Holtzman.

Cohousing was pioneered in Denmark in the 1960s by a group of working parents who realised that if they shared many of the household tasks across the community, they would have far more time to socialise and be with their children, and it would also reduce living costs*. In Sweden and Holland it is well established as a social housing (public housing) and senior housing alternative, and it’s also becoming more popular in the US and other countries.

Cohousing neighbourhoods are typically designed for 12 to 35 households. Homes are owner-occupied or rented, with units often being smaller in size and clustered together to allow for more shared open space.

Site programming workshop for Sydney Cohousing group, 2010. In this workshop the group is closely engaged in the design process, so that they understand all aspects of the site, and the potential and constraints of their future housing/community design.
Picture credit: Gilo Holtzman

Cohousing has such exciting potential and many benefits:

  • Communities are managed by the residents, therefore have more say in how their community looks like and functions.
  • Houses are better designed, so residents enjoy an improved quality of life.
  • A broader section of the population, including home-buying middle class families and senior citizens (Baby Boomers), can enjoy a more community-orientated neighbourhood (without having to join a rural or urban co-op or spiritual community).\Residents participate in a (democratic) non-hierarchical management structure, making decisions together, so people can develop new life skills.
  • Caring communities are created that are safe for residents and their children, fostering meaningful relationships between neighbours, and ensuring that residents feel a sense of belonging.
  • The cohousing model has the flexibility to be applied to any form and setting — low-rise building, townhouses, semi detached or free standing, new built or retrofit, under strata, cooperative or company title.

Site plan illustration, Berkeley Cohousing (retrofit) Berkeley CA US. The three-quarter-acre site has 14 households clustered around a central green, with clustered parking spots off the busy street. Picture credit: Ross Chapin, Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating small-scale community in a large scale world, 2011, The Taunton Press CT.

The design of the neighbourhood and its buildings are aimed at bringing people together:

Inner paths, Nevada City Cohousing CA, US, established 2008. The collaborative design process used sustainable and energy efficient design practices led to a design which encouraged neighbourly interaction.
Picture credit: Gilo Holtzman

  • Narrow paths, car free, and open spaces for pedestrians encourage opportunities for casual meetings between neighbours.
  • A large common house and other facilities provide space for both planned and spontaneous get-togethers such as celebrations, hobby clubs and movie-watching, and one of the most important activities — the shared meals a few times a week.
  • “Among intentional communities, the more socially motivated ones are reacting to the alienation of the individual … They tend to emphasize re-establishing “community” and are closely associated to the cohousing movement. The latter is closer to the mainstream and represents the easiest first step for many.” (Ross Jackson )

Visit cohousing communities in Australia

Melbourne VIC

Hobart TAS

Cohousing Co-operative (cooperative)

Fremantle, Perth WA

Adelaide SA

Winston Hills (near Parramatta) NSW

  • Community-oriented development
  • Illabunda (urban eco-village) eco-neighbourhood
  • Email


Centre for Liveability Real Estate

Centre for Liveability Real Estate

In addition to their expertise in residential real estate, The Centre for Liveability Real Estate also works collaboratively with the sustainable design, construction, manufacturing and assessment and industries in the development of information on this site.

3 Responses to “Guide to Co-housing and Collaborative Housing”

  1. Please send me more info for cohousing living in Sydney area .
    Thank you

    • Hi Julie,
      This site, [] has some new south wales cohousing projects registered and you could put your name down with them to receive updates
      cheers the Liveability Team


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