The conversation of housing in Australia has been a bleak one for a while. Unaffordability for new home buyers has seen the population of renters steadily rise and while home ownership may have been a rite of passage for previous generations, for Generation Z the Australian Dream will need to be redefined.1
As those of us born in the mid to late 90’s enter the workforce, traditional wisdom tells us that home ownership is the next milestone to shoot for. However, given the increasing prominence of issues such as overpopulation, climate change and housing unaffordability, we may need to look outside of the traditional model to find housing that offers a good standard of living.2
This is where Baugruppen comes in. Baugruppen comes from the German word for “building group” and is a housing model that engages a group of potential homebuyers to fund their own housing project.3 Developers are cut out the process and the community of buyers collaborate with architects to design a building that meets the needs of the group.
We have seen the co-living model gain some popularity in Melbourne with organisations such as Nightingale Housing and the Assemble Model entering the scene. These examples of co-living developments are beautifully and sustainably designed, showing what is possible when a project is architect led. Without the pressure from developers to keep construction costs low and profit margins high, architects can design more livable buildings for a comparable price to homebuyers.4
Beyond these financial benefits, the concept of Baugruppen has remarkable potential to contribute to the solution for climate change. As a community of buyers come together, they can work towards self-sufficiency, incorporating passive heating and cooling systems, alternative energy, water collection and community gardens into their designs. The influence of this has been seen in Berlin, where the concept of Baugruppen is already in wide use. Berlin Baugruppe developments all include community gardens and the experimentation in building technologies that they allow has led to new, more sustainable forms of construction being certified there.5
The potential social impact of Baugruppen is also exciting, with shared facilities such as gardens, communal kitchens, roof terraces and laundries, increasing the opportunity for interaction and events to take place within the community. In Denmark, co-living developments have existed since the 60s and today make up 10% of all new builds.6 They are called “bofoellesskaber” or “living communities” and their origin was based in the desire for smaller communities where a sense of connection and security could be increased, while responsibilities such as childcare and cooking are shared. 7
In WA, The Pinakarri was our first example of a co-living development and was established in Hamilton Hill in 1999.8 More recently, we have seen Baugruppen@WGV and Nightingale Fremantle bring co-living into the local housing conversation. Unsurprisingly, these projects are concentrated in the precinct of Fremantle, known for its progressive and socially conscious population.
If we in Perth are serious about housing solutions that tackle climate change and affordability issues, we need continue looking to the well-established European examples of co-living and adapt them to our own inner suburbs. This is one way that we can ensure the high quality of living that has become expected, is available to the younger generations.
- Jennifer Duke, “Census 2016: Renting Population Growing as Great Australian Dream Fades,” Domain, June 27, 2017, accessed March 18, 2020, https://www.domain.com.au/news/census-2016-renting-population-growing-as-great-australian-dream-fades-20170627-gwz63p/
- Jack Derwin, “We risk disenfranchising an entire generation, a property expert has warned, as the proportion of millennials priced out of the market soars,” Business Insider, September 27, 2019, accessed March 18, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com.au/housing-affordability-millennials-priced-out-2019-9
- Kristien Ring, “Reinventing density: how baugruppen are pioneering the self-made city,” The Conversation, November 22, 2016, accessed March 20, 2020, https://theconversation.com/reinventing-density-how-baugruppen-are-pioneering-the-self-made-city-66488
- “The Nightingale Model,” Nightingale Housing, accessed March 18, 2020, https://nightingalehousing.org/model
- Kristien Ring, Reinventing Density
- “Great Danes. Communal living started in Denmark 40 years ago,” cohabitas, December 19, 2016, accessed March 20, 2020, https://cohabitas.com/news/110/coliving/Cohousing+and+Co-living+started+in+Denmark.
- “About Pinakarri,” Pinakarri Community, 2016, accessed March 20, 2020, http://www.pinakarri.org.au/about.html