Henry Project owner Meriam Salama with prospective buyer Catherine Turk.
Photo by Matthew Dwyer
What are your reasons for going with co-housing? For me it seems a great blend of the great Australian dream of having your own house plus all the benefits of higher density urban living. Having lived in apartment building in Europe I have seen the benefits in knowing your neighbours well and helping each other out. There are efficiencies in sharing spaces like laundries or sheds. Particularly in working households with kids, being able to knock on a door and give each other a hand has many benefits. Even for the single households in our apartment block, people collected parcels for each other, looked after plants and kept an eye on each others place while they were away.
That said, now I live back in Australia there are many things I like about having my own four walls and garden space. I could look for a townhouse or unit development that provides this mix, but the problem is that most of these have been poorly designed (often to maximise the number of units) so all the potentially shared spaces are taken up by driveways and parking bays. Instead I imagine shared gardens and social spaces as the hub of a co-housing group. In Fremantle, sharing is also a way of living more centrally but having some of the amenity of a larger block. By sharing garden/courtyard areas the family has access to more outdoor space than we would have on a small cottage block or in a townhouse development. It is not necessarily more affordable than other housing forms, but there may be some savings to be made in planning together and potentially if people decide to do something like installing solar panels or greywater systems concurrently. How do you feel about sharing certain areas, and how will you deal with any conflict should it arise? Sharing is one thing that attracts me to this idea. Working together outdoors gardening or harvesting and being able to share facilities like sheds or spare rooms makes sense. Like in a block or flats or townhouse development (which have rules governed through a body corporate) I think some conflicts can be avoided be setting general rules for sharing from the outset. These rules would also need to establish a process for resolving conflicts when they do arise. Do you think that your kids will get on fine with co-housing and sharing communal areas? My kids like the idea of having alternative playmates close at hand. They've had training in a sense, having lived in an apartment building for most of their lives. There they had the benefits of being able to knock next door and see if friends were home, but they also had to bear in mind some of the house rules.
At the moment they love going to play with the kids across the road but the road itself is a big problem as cars race through and they need to find an adult to help them cross. A central shared garden area solves this. Are you hoping to share with people you know? Sharing with those I already know would be fun, but it is also an opportunity to find others who share similar views about the potentials of cooperative living.