The High Street Cohousing Project is only the second cohousing development in New Zealand. In February 2013 Robin Alison from Earthsong, New Zealand’s first cohousing community held several public meetings in Dunedin. Out of those meetings a number of parties got together to investigate a number of potential sites within Dunedin which were large enough for a cohousing type approach. The former Montecillo property on Eglinton Road was one investigated however for various reasons this did not prove suitable. Hard on the heals of this the group had the opportunity to tender for the former High Street School site. As a vehicle for this tender the group formed Urban Cohousing Otepoti Ltd. which went on to purchase the site in September 2013. Since then the group has been working together to develop the plans and financial pathway for the project. The group have resource consent for 22 units and developing the common house and shared grounds.
What’s happening now?
The group are now working with both Architype Ltd. (local certified passive house architects) and eHaus, (a specialist passive house building company) to develop and refine the construction methodology for the project. Once this process is complete the group will be in a position to set the price of each of the homes in the development and organise the sale of the remaining units. At present there are only 2 four bedroom homes still available. The Dunedin City Council have agreed to purchase two homes which will be rented as social housing. Renters and owners alike will participate in decision-making. All going well we hope to commence construction late 2017. We have regular meetings and social events.
One of the cohousing principles is sustainability in three intersecting forms:
Community: Our biggest asset is the community itself – all ages, a mix of abilities, cultures, income levels and much else makes the place a diverse, stimulating place to grow. Not having to do everything oneself, support as lives fluctuate and change, the sharing knowledge and understandings, learning from others, having playmates for children, and companionship are all attributes which make a community resilient.
Environmental: These considerations have influenced our choice to build to Passive House standard and in turn our choice of building materials including high grade insulation, rain water collection for gardening, possible solar electricity generation, composting, and increased green space.
Economic: By undertaking this build as a group we have been able to leverage economies of scale which have reduced our land costs, design costs and material supply costs as well as increase the density of development by getting rid of the wasted space between homes and this is how we will manage to build to the cost target we have without compromising on performance. Ongoing maintenance costs for the homes will be very low. In addition to all this we anticipate that by living more socially there will be potential for all kinds of cost savings including car sharing groups, food co-ops, and sharing of facilities and equipment.