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Simplify setting up cohousing communities say housing experts

It should be made easier for groups to set up their own co-housing communities says a new report which will be launched in the House of Commons today (Wednesday 22 June).

According to the report, written by academic housing researchers working with the UK Cohousing Network, cohousing could be much more widely adopted if it were easier for groups to get planning, financial and development support.

Cohousing communities provide a neighbourly, supportive lifestyle.  The people who live in them share facilities and often eat together while retaining private dwellings. There is a niche market for this style of housing in the UK but interest is growing strongly.  However groups often have problems finding suitable land and then actually developing their plans.

Dr Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia, an author of the report and researcher from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) said: “There are fantastic social, political, ecological benefits that make cohousing a real alternative to conventional housing for some people. While each initiative will be unique, we should find ways to make it simpler for newly formed groups to get their plans off the ground without having to reinvent the wheel each time.”

Duwamish CohousingThe report recommends that local government should make more land available cheaply, especially in urban areas, to groups who want to set up cohousing communities. 

It also says that social and private developers should think inventively about how to integrate cohousing into mainstream housing developments, as happens in some other countries. According to the report there are 19 established cohousing communities in the UK in comparison to over 600 in Germany.

Cohousing groups should look for ways to incorporate ecological and sustainable technology, for instance for heating, in the design, construction and operation of their communities. This includes ensuring that members of the community know how to use the technology.

Kath Scanlon, an author of the report and LSE researcher, said: “Cohousing can be attractive to people as they get older and need to downsize. These communities provide a ready-made social network and could help promote ‘healthy ageing’. In countries with a more established cohousing movement, these communities are also seen as great places to raise children.”

Dr Helen Jarvis, one of the report’s authors from Newcastle University and non-executive Director of the UK Cohousing Network said: “This project drew inspiration from pioneering community projects and new research and evidence. The aim was to stimulate a bigger conversation on the current crisis in housing. The next step is to translate inspiration and knowledge into action. Building on cohousing idea will allow more people to achieve low-impact lifestyles and a sense of belonging through the efficiencies of sharing”.

The report draws on two years of seminars and site visits across the country.  Researchers met residents of cohousing communities as well as activists, practitioners and academics from continental Europe, Australia and the USA.  LSE collaborated with the universities of Newcastle, Leeds, Lancaster, Nottingham and Sheffield, and the UK Co-housing Network, to organise the project.

Posted: 22 June 2016 

Notes to Editors

Image: Duwamish Cohousing (formerly Ciel Cohousing), West Seattle, Seattle, Washington, Credit: Joe Mabel,  used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

For more information

Sue Windebank, LSE press office, T: 020 7955 7060, E: s.windebank@lse.ac.uk