Fremantle Council has called for expressions of interest for groups interested in converting an unused council site into a co-housing project, in a sign that this burgeoning form of development could spread like wildfire, if interest is any guide.

Co-housing developments have been the hot topic at The Fifth Estate in the last month, with our top three stories exploring this new form of development, which promises greater focus on community and sustainability.

See our features:

These types of housing developments occur by engaging in a deliberative development model, where owner-occupiers work hand-in-hand with architects to prioritise needs and maximise communal space, and developers are cut out or their profits capped so homes can be affordable, sustainable and liveable.

While Australia is beginning to explore different approaches to co-housing, Fremantle Council said it had taken its inspiration directly from Europe, and in particular Germany’s Baugruppen, or building groups. These development bypass developers entirely, working together as a community with an architect to design and build housing based on shared values.

However, where German banks have been willing to finance these developments, in Australia the banks have not been so willing to lend. The Nightingale Model is known to have struggled to convince financiers to fund properties with lower than normal levels of profit and has partly resolved these issues by turning to architects and ethical investors to provide seed funding, which could be a potential option for the Fremantle development.

Fremantle Councillor Rachel Pemberton said the Baugruppen model was a perfect fit for Fremantle and its housing needs.

“This cooperative housing project allows people to have an input into the design of not only their own living spaces but also the design of the whole building, including communal areas,” she said.

“It’s above and beyond what can currently be achieved in a traditional apartment development and has proven to provide great benefits to everyone involved.

She said the resident-led development model had also led to more sustainable and affordable housing in Germany.

“We hope it can deliver similar outcomes for people here in Perth, starting in Fremantle.”

The 7 Quarry Street site, which is next to a childcare centre and backing onto a park, is a 1477 square metre parcel that could form one or two separate co-housing developments. A caveat is that the land must be purchased at or above market price, which in 2014 was valued at $2.75 million.

There are also some strong design expectations set, including that it incorporate “nationally or internationally recognised best practice standards for innovative environmentally sustainable building design”. As well, 25 per cent of the residences must comply with diversity and adaptability requirements, so that they are suitable for people with a disability.

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