Urban Cohousing Model

Urban Cohousing Model


A new model for urban co-housing to sustainably densify Australian suburbs while reducing loneliness & isolation in our communities.

Future Homes Competition 2020

The Great Australian dream of owning a quarter-acre block is incompatible with our need to densify and keep up with population growth. Capital cities across Australia are running out of large parcels of land to accommodate the desire for detached single-family homes, while low housing supply has contributed to prices running so high that they are now impossible to reach for the average Australian family. Meanwhile, this dream has contributed to us living farther and farther apart, increasing feelings of loneliness and isolation in our cities, and the associated physical and mental health impacts. Building connected and vibrant communities are now top of mind when planning a resilient future for our cities. We need to transform our suburb landscape from one of large, isolated, blocks of single homes, to connected, vibrant urban neighbourhoods at appropriate levels of density.

67% of First Home Buyers are couples 31-33 years old, half with children. Most are renting in the inner-city, and would prefer to remain in their local neighbourhoods, but are unable to afford the high housing prices. Starting a family is often the trigger that forces a move to Outer Ring Suburbs to buy an affordable family home.These areas are often far away from jobs, amenities, services, friends and close-family that can help provide assistance and care. Young families are increasingly forced to live in isolation, away from their social ties, their neighbours and friends, all to chase the Great Australian dream.

The Cohousing movement has rapidly expanded across Europe and USA in the last 50 years and has shown benefits for combating loneliness, increasing community cohesion and resilience, and reducing housing costs. However, most examples of cohousing in Australia are groups of detached homes with a shared 'common house', with few examples of the concept being adapted for denser, urban environments.

The Urban Cohousing Model is a new model for urban housing that applies the principles of the cohousing movement into a higher density, apartment housing model.

The central Common House lies at the heart of the community , and provides a large shared communal space with a larger kitchen, dining area and cinema room. These shared spaces are a sanctuary from the tight quarters of apartment living, encourage neighbours to meet and interact, join in events and celebrations, and watch children play and grow up together with shared supervision and childcare.

The average Australian family will live in the same home for over 15 years. Over that time, the family can grow and shrink, children will grow up and parents will grow old. Family's needs will change and the model needs to adapt.The model uses a modular design, with a standard grid structure, to allow the homes to expand and contract easily as the size and needs of each family change over time. Bedrooms can be added, living spaces extended, and the home reduced once children leave to start their own families. Couples can affordable purchase a smaller home, and expand it later as their family grows. In the meantime, the spaces in between homes can be shared as additional communal space.This modular design also allows the structure to be erected quickly and expanded easily, saving time and cost.

Outside of the private homes, everything in and around the community is designed to be shared to reduce wasted space. Corridors are designed as outdoor communal streets to allow children to play, private courtyards can spill out seamlessly into shared outdoor areas, and an open plaza and communal gardens along the street encourage the greater community to visit and mingle.The Common House connects directly to the outdoor plaza expanding the space for street parties.

As a flexible and adaptable housing model, the design can be left up to the communities that will make it their home. Residents are encouraged to engage in the design process and build a community that reflects their identities, heritage and tastes.

The Great Australian dream of a quarter-acre block may be engrained into the culture of Australians, but it is not the future. As our populations grow, our cities need to densify, and single-detached homes on large blocks of land will be a relic of the past.The Urban Cohousing Model is a middle ground between single homes and dense high rise apartments, and a possible solution for appropriately densifying our middle-ring suburbs and building connected urban communities by:

  • Applying the principles of Cohousing to create a new model for suburban living, one based on sharing and community, where people are connected rather than isolated.
  • Using modular design techniques to reduce cost and the barrier to entry, and allowing homes to grow and shrink as the family's size and needs change over time.
  • Sharing as much as we can to reduce wasted space, while increasing community interactions and connectedness. Families play and grow up together with a strong support network to rely on.