UKO Stanmore co-living
UKO Stanmore central courtyard. Photo: Rebecca Dracup

A new guide helps people organise a collaborative housing project, helping people navigate everything from development approvals and parking to community perceptions of boarding houses and breaking down the finance barriers.

Sharing living space is a good way to tread lighter on the planet, forge stronger relationships with others and save money. But collaborative housing models such as co living and cooperatives are yet to take off in Australia.

An “image problem” is one reason people are yet to embrace shared housing, according to Professor Chris Riedy, lead author of recent research by the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures. The research has since been turned into new web-based Collaborative Housing Guide with funding support from the NSW government.

Collaborative housing for many conjures up images of “hippies and uni sharehouses”, Professor Riedy said, when in fact there’s collaborative housing options that are light years away from these perceptions.

For example, the acclaimed Nightingale housing model falls under the collaborative housing banner, where people share a laundry and rooftop gardens but they otherwise live in a typical apartment.

At the other end of what Professor Riedy describes as the “spectrum of sharing” are eco villages, where there are regular communal meals and communal governance.

People can choose how much they want to share, he says, which is another misconception the ISF researchers set out to bust with the guide.

Collaborative housing could help solve a lot of Australia’s housing woes

Based on the rates of take up in countries where collaborative housing has been successful, such as Denmark, as much as 10 to 20 per cent of the population could be housed in these models.

This could help solve Australia’s big housing challenges such as lack of affordable housing and suitable and safe homes for an ageing population.

Bridging the collaborative housing knowledge gap

The new online guide helps users navigate the hurdles standing in the way of collaborative housing, including regulatory and financial problems.

Professor Riedy says that people are still running into problems with development approvals in some places for changes such as adding dwellings to existing properties.

Parking is also a common concern of local governments when it comes to collaborative housing.

People are also up against community perceptions thanks to the reputation of some coliving arrangements such as boarding houses.

There’s also financing challenges, with many banks scared off by unfamiliar title arrangements such as multiple people on a single mortgage.

Fortunately this will become easier as the models become more popular, and the more progressive banks are “much more open to lending for this kind of approach”.

Who is best suited to collaborative housing?

Although there’s a model to suit almost everyone, the research started off as an investigation into the suitability of collaborative housing for the elderly.

The research unearthed a number of different collaborative retirement options, including living with friends or family in a small collaborative property or a group of elderly people pooling their resources to develop shared housing communities.

Professor Riedy said that it wasn’t just people in retirement interested in collaborative housing – people in their 40s and 50s were also investigating their options after seeing how the traditional aged sector had failed their own parents.

“They are seeing what’s been happening in aged care and are saying ‘I don’t want that to happen to me, I want to get into this community and have support around me.’”

People are attracted to the idea that if they start having health difficulties they have potential to share live in carers in these types of housing, and potentially the informal carers from the community around them.

According to the minister for seniors John Sidoti, the NSW government is “committed to helping seniors access affordable, adaptable and stable housing.”

“Investing in research finds new solutions to address the housing needs of our ageing population.”

Young people don’t miss out

But there are options for young people too. Coliving options such as UKO Stanmore in Sydney are geared for millennials struggling to get into the housing market but have high disposable incomes.

“It’s kind of like an instant community, with public spaces but also the private space. It helps you get connected with other people, they often have community managers as well.”

Collaborative housing options include cooperatives, building groups, cohousing, coliving, intentional communities and small blocks. Visit the guide to find out more.

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  1. I have a on the grid permaculture place in the states close to DFW and would like to exchange living quarters with like minds in Australia April 2020.