an urban cohousing development

Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn, Auckland


Cohaus is a community of people living in a twenty-unit housing development in Grey Lynn, Auckland. We designed and financed the buildings ourselves.

Our vision was to build affordable housing using smart design and innovative technology to create a community where it’s easy to live comfortably while minimising resource use.

We know others are interested in our journey so we maintain this site so you can get in touch and find links to various writings about Cohaus. We hope this will help others to build alternative housing models around Aotearoa New Zealand

Latest news

June 2023: Our architects Thom and Helle of Studio Nord won an architecture award for Cohaus. Well done!

November 2021: We were happy to be the cover feature in Architecture New Zealand.

July 2021: All units are now complete and all residents have moved in.

May 2021: Residents have started to move in! Final touches are being put units, and the landscaping still needs to be finished.

June 2020: We now have takers for all the units, so are full up! Still happy to hear from people who are interested though...

November 2019: Construction has started! LEP Construction are on site starting on the foundations. We aim to be finished by early 2021.

December 2018: We've been granted Resource consent! An article about the decision was published on Stuff

If you are so inclined, follow Cohaus on Twitter.

Check out a list of articles and interviews about Cohaus below.

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 two bedroom, 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.


In 2017, we purchased the old Fairleigh Lodge site on the corner of Browning St, Firth Road and Surrey Crescent after the owner decided to close the lodge.

This site met all our criteria. It offers a unique opportunity in the Surrey Crescent area: it is large (the size of 5 or 6 individual sites) and sits on an arterial road surrounded by a mix of building types. The area is well connected to transport links, with a major bus route 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 a short walk.

We were pleased to be able to retain the heritage villa on site by repositioning it to the north-west of the site where it enhances the character of Browning Street.

Our development

When we bought our site, it had an old villa on it along with a sprawl of newer annexes and extensions. We removed the modern additions and moved the villa to the corner of the site where it continues the line of villas up Browning Street. See the villa section below for more about this building.

The main buildings are a three-storey building on Surrey Crescent and Browning Street and a two-storey building on the bondary parallel to Firth Road. Both buildings are arranged around a shared north-facing courtyard garden, with a common garden house at the centre.

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

To meet our transport needs, we have ample secure bike storage, and six shared cars.The shared cars are owned collectively by the Cohaus community and allow us to radically reduce our overall car ownership.

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

Villa unit

The Villa originally sat in the middle of the site and is probably the oldest building on the block, thought to have been built around 1890. We moved it to the north-west corner of the site where it now sits at 1 Browning St.

We renovated the villa to make it into a stylish 132m2, three bedroom home that is one of the units at Coahus.

The image below shows how the front of the villa looks from Browning Street.

Who we are

Households range from families of five to single people. Some people within the group have known each other for many years, while others met recently through Cohaus. All members of the group share a commitment to strong communities and living in a way which cares for our environment. The photos below, though now somewhat old, show many of the residents.

Currently, Cohaus is full up but get in touch if you are interested in hearing from us if something comes available

Contact us!

Contact details

Feel free to get in touch with us if you are curious about Cohaus or just want a chat! Currently Cohaus is full up but we are always keen to hear from people who may be interested in living here in the future - we keep an informal list in case something comes up for sale or rent.

The best way to contact us is to send an email to

You can also follow us on Twitter to keep up with news, though posting there is now infrequent.

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:

People are talking about Cohaus!

More and more people are interested in alternative housing models, and how communities can work together to build housing that is sustainable, affordable and high-quality. Here is a list of the main articles mentioning Cohaus.

Interviews with group members on Newstalk ZB (2018-07-25) and the since rebranded RadioLIVE (2018-05-12) are no longer available on the web.