We all know how difficult it has become for people to break into the housing market, especially in recent years. Sought after properties have become increasingly unaffordable even for couples on good dual incomes.

Many first home buyers are finding that they are constantly being beaten at auction with the price rising to a level that they just can’t afford. When this happens repeatedly, it’s time to become innovative and think outside of the box.

This is how the concept of co-housing was developed. This concept was created by a couple in Leichhardt, Ben and Natalie Williams, who posted their idea on a Facebook page “Inner West Mums”. Soon after posting this idea they had over 80 interested couples who wanted to take advantage of their co-housing concept.

So What Is Co-Housing?

The co-housing concept developed by the Williams consists of a number of couples pooling their resources to purchase a large house together. They then split this into 3 or 4 apartments and share the backyard and maybe other facilities like the laundry.

This still provides independent living but with shared facilities and a greater sense of community. Of course, the couples need to set out the legalities of this joint ownership, meaning they could become shareholders in the property or set it up as a strata title.

In another example, 3 couples purchased a unit block of 4 in Petersham. The couples all moved into the individual units and rented out the fourth one. When one of the initial couples wanted to sell, the other 2 couples bought them out and rented out the spare unit.

These are just a couple of examples of how co-housing can work but there are plenty of other variations of this idea.

What Are The Benefits Of Co-Housing?

Apart from the obvious benefit of couples being able to pool resources to purchase a property they could not otherwise afford, co-housing also has other benefits as well.

  • Co-housing provides a sense of community as your ‘neighbours’ become friends. This eliminates the isolation that is often felt in our current suburban living environments.
  • There is a sense of security as everyone looks out for each other.
  • There is still a sense of privacy unlike you would find in a ‘shared house’ type of situation as everyone lives in their own apartment, unit or small home.
  • There are opportunities of car pooling if neighbours work near each other or have children who go to the same school.
  • For seniors who opt for this type of living arrangement, there is the sense of security knowing that there is always someone nearby in case of an emergency.
  • There is also the opportunity of a communal vegetable patch in the backyard which the residents can share.

Other Types Of Co-Housing Communities

Another type of co-housing type of community which is starting to emerge in Australia is where individual homes or units are built around a common area which houses a communal living room, kitchen and laundry and of course, outdoor space.

This type of co-housing saves on living expenses for the individuals because expenses are shared but still offers a self contained living area for privacy.

New co-housing communities are slowly becoming more popular as people struggle with the financial demands of buying or maintaining the traditional type of suburban home.  These developments are being designed and managed by the co-owners and quite often take into account energy efficient designs to reduce regular expenses.

These efficiencies include the use of solar power and hot water, the installation of rainwater tanks and communal vegetable and fruit gardens. Some communities have even embraced the idea of shared weekly meals in the centrally shared kitchen.
Co-Housing Is Ideal For Seniors And Retirees.

Although there are plenty of ‘retirement communities’ available, these can often be quite expensive both in respect to the price of the homes and the ongoing maintenance fees. Plus if you purchase a home in one of these communities, although you own the actual home, the land and the common areas are owned and managed by a corporation.

This can often mean quite stringent rules as to what you can do to your home and how you can use the shared facilities.

A better alternative would be for a group of seniors or retirees to get together, purchase a piece of land and construct individual homes around a central shared area. This means that all the residents have a say in how the property is established and managed and it provides a sense of community and fellowship.

The AGEncy Project in the Sydney suburb of Balmain is a perfect example of this. This community consists of residents ranging in age from 40 to 60 who all live independently in their own homes but share communal areas such as the garden, an art studio space, playground equipment and sports facilities. They even share meals on a regular basis.

Is The Tiny House Movement Possibly The Future Of Co-Housing?

One trend that is emerging in Australia and around the world is the Tiny House movement and it is certainly gaining in popularity. A tiny house is small dwelling which is built onto a trailer so that it is portable. Tiny houses are usually about the size of a large caravan but look like actual houses and are often set up to be totally independent from utility services such as electricity, gas and water.

A new development is currently underway in Melbourne’s outer west on a large parcel of land which will be able to accommodate quite a large number of these tiny dwellings. The land is actually a working farm and there are plans to incorporate a communal kitchen, recreational area and swimming pool.

How this will work is that residents will need to have their own tiny house built, which they will own, and then lease the land that the house sits on at a weekly rental price of around $150. This ‘rental’ fee will, of course, include the use of all the other amenities on the property.

Into the future however, there is no reason why a group of likeminded people can’t get together and purchase their own piece of land to set up their own tiny house community.