an urban cohousing development

Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn, Auckland

What is cohousing?

Cohousing is a group of people working together to build homes that they themselves will live in. Facilities are shared within the cohousing community so that individual units offer greater amenity than in a commercial property development. By removing the profit margin and by sharing resources, cohousing produces good quality housing at a more affordable price than commercial developments.

Cohousing is designed, built and lived in by people who plan to be long-term residents. A sense of community responsibility, both between the residents and to neighbouring property owners, is core to the project.

Cohousing has been shown to work internationally with a 50-year track record in countries such as Denmark, Germany, and the United States.

Why bother? Or, the urgency of the Auckland housing crisis

We are building Cohaus because we believe in community but also in response to Auckland's current housing crisis.

Auckland house prices have historically been about four times the median household income. Prices jumped in the mid-2000s to six times and from 2013 skyrocketed to be now nearly ten times the median household income.

The social impact of this unprecedented rise in house prices will take a generation to play out but the barriers to home ownership are clear. In 2006, 46.5% of Auckland adults lived in houses they partly owned, just five years later that rate had dropped to 43.4%. The large majority of Aucklanders can no longer afford to own their own home.

Alternative models of housing and home ownership need to be explored.

Finding a good cohousing site

Deciding where you and your family will live is always difficult. Finding a place where twenty households might live is even harder. We used these criteria to find a suitable site for Cohaus:

  • We want to rely less on cars and more on sustainable forms of transport so the site has to be close enough to the central city, a local centre and transport links that living without a car is possible.
  • Community is important to us so the site needs to be big enough to accommodate 12 or more units and ample space for an outdoor courtyard. This rules out most suburban properties which are around 500-600m2.
  • The site needs to be affordable for members of our group. Practically this means a 70m2 unit needs to cost around $750k once completed. This restriction on price means that we can't compete with commercial property developers for larger sites.
  • We have all enjoyed living in Auckland neighbourhoods for many years, so the site needs to capture those qualities the make urban Auckland great.

Cohousing examples

Cohousing takes many forms with all sorts of different types of buildings, environments, kinds of communities and levels of community interaction.

Location

We have purchased the Fairleigh Lodge site on the corner of Browning St, Firth Road and Surrey Crescent. In 2017, the owner of Fairleigh lodge decided to close the lodge and offered the site for sale and redevelopment.

This site meets all our criteria. It offers a unique opportunity in the Surrey Crescent area: it is large (the size of 5 or 6 individual sites), irregularly shaped and sits on an arterial road surrounded by a mix of building types. The area is well connected to transport links, with a new cycleway past the front of the site, major bus routes along Surrey Crescent and Great North Road and close to motorways. It is also very close to West Lynn and Grey Lynn local shopping centres with several schools and parks within fifteen minutes' walk.

We are pleased to be able to retain the heritage villa currently on the site where it will be repositioned to the north-west of the site. The new position of the villa will enhance the character of Browning Street.

Our plans for the site

The site currently has an old villa and a sprawl of newer annexes and extensions. We plan to remove the modern additions and to move the villa on to its own site on Browning Street. The villa will be sold. Cohaus will be built on the remaining 2000m2 site.

Our current plans propose a three-storey building on Surrey Crescent and a two-storey building. Both buildings are arranged around a shared north-facing courtyard.

The buildings will house 19 units ranging in size from one bedroom to four or five bedroom units. The central courtyard will be the focus of the development. There will be shared facilities including a guest bedroom, a common room, storage, laundry, bike parking, cars and car parking.

On site, we will provide at least 30 cycle and 9 car parks. At least two of the car parks will be for shared cars which will be owned collectively by the Cohaus community.

The buildings are set away from close neighbours. The buildings will present a friendly interface with the surrounding streets and the neighbourhood. The ground floor units will have gardens and entrances directly off the street, while units on upper levels and the courtyard building will be accessed through broad, open passageways.

Who we are

As of June 2018, all of the 19 proposed units are taken. Households range from families of five to single people. Some people within the group have known each other for many years and others have just met through Cohaus in the last year. All members of the group share a commitment to strong communities and living in a way which cares for our environment.

We are keeping a list of people who are interested in joining our group as our plans are finalised and in case any spaces become available.

Contact us!

Contact details

Feel free to get in touch with us if you are curious about our plans or living in the Cohaus, if you are a neighbour or community member wondering how our plans will affect you, or just want a chat!

The best way to contact us is to send an email to cohaus.nz@gmail.com

Co-housing resources

Cohousing is a mainstream housing model in Northern Europe and the USA with many discussions, books, videos and other resources about cohousing available. A few are listed here: