The 2019 Massey University
New Thinking Award
The future of housing
When you’re looking for somewhere to live, you find that there are lots of options – you can rent, you can buy, you can build – off the plans or something original. You can think outside the square, or off the grid. Or you can try something completely different. Which is what the Urban Habitat Collective has done.
The Urban Habitat Collective is a group of Wellington families applying some new thinking around the age-old issue of accommodation. By building not just a building, but a community.
It’s actually not a new idea. The concept of co-housing dates back to the 1970s, in Denmark at first, then spreading throughout Europe, and the whole world.
Even New Zealand – there’s a growing co-housing movement with urban, suburban and rural projects dotted across the country.
But back to Wellington – Mt Cook to be precise, where the Urban Habitat Collective has bought themselves 900 square metres of land and plans to build a community of twenty apartments – private homes – centred around shared spaces.
All the dwellings and shared spaces will be on upper levels while the ground floor will be commercial space. There’s room for a garden outside and up on the roof.
The beauty of shared communal facilities - like living rooms and dining areas – is you have more room for activities that don’t work in an apartment, like BIG birthday parties!
… and you get to know and interact with your neighbours. Which is kinda the whole point.
The Urban Habitat Collective thinks urban communities, where residents put down roots and thrive, are just what a city needs - medium density housing designed and built with empathy for, and input from, the residents; and something that’s a viable urban addition to the current housing mix.
You wouldn’t find developers building a project like this – and fair enough. It doesn’t fit their model. It’s designed for and by the residents around their needs, not to return the best profit on the market.
Co--housing lets you create a balance of personal space and community within a city environment. You can be in a central location but don't have to live in a shoebox. You can do all the same things you can do in a house in the burbs, but without the hassle of owning your own flymo.
And while it might not end up cheaper than buying or building a new home, the additional amenities, along with the connection with neighbours and community is an attractive alternative to many people.
It’s not the only answer to Wellington’s housing conundrum. Other options are available – and the important thing is we do need options. It’s not a one-size all kinda place, Wellington, and if we’re going to look at new ways of living, we need some new thinking.
Like the Urban Habitat Collective – the recipients of the 2019 New Thinking Award.