What is Cohousing?
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*. The cohousing movement is gaining momentum around the world. 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.
However, in Australia it hasn’t caught on yet, for various reasons: the culture of housing in this country with its post-war tradition of home ownership on the quarter-acre block, high land prices, lack of government incentives and complications at the local government level.
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.
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.
The design of the neighbourhood and its buildings are aimed at bringing people together:
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
Cohousing Co-operative (cooperative)
Fremantle, Perth WA
Winston Hills (near Parramatta) NSW
About our Guest Author
Gilo Holtzman B.Des.(Arch) | Mast. Architecture
Partner Synthesis Studio, which specialises in environmentally and socially sustainable design
Gilo is currently the co-planner and consultant for the Tasman Eco-Village, initiator of the E-Co-Neighbourhood Blue Mountains, and previously was part of the Sydney Coastal Ecovillage design team and Sydney Cohousing Group. Gilo takes a humanistic and holistic approach to designing; one that is tailored specifically to the challenges of each project. His experience expands from interior, domestic architecture to large development on a neighbourhood and village scale, through design, planning and consultancy (design and development). In recent years Gilo’s focus was on researching and writing about social architecture and design, and sustainable neighbourhoods with an emphasis on cohousing and slow design.
*Gilo Holtzman, “Sustainable neighbourhoods: the cohousing model” From ECOS Magazine online
Published: 23 April 2012
- Feature image credit to ©iStock.com/vgajic