The continued rise in property prices has been encouraging Britons to think outside the box for alternative solutions to affordable housing, with co-housing catching on as an innovative opportunity for cost-effective home-ownership while living in closer-knit communities. Singles, couples and families are forming groups across the UK to purchase land and buildings for such housing schemes.
According to the UK Cohousing Network, over 40 new projects are under way in the United Kingdom. Co-housing only began to develop in Britain towards the end of the 1990s, however has been a growing concept in the US and European countries, namely Denmark, for a number of decades.
The concept seems to be proving to be an increasingly popular solution for those looking to reside a in a more involved community environment. Co-housing developments are made up of individual apartments or houses grouped together with certain shared facilities. While each home is self-contained and private, residents co-manage all aspects of the development and community.
Ecology Business Society has reported a marked increase in inquiries for financing co-housing projects over the past 18 months. Speaking to The Positive, Anna Laycock, the Society’s Communications and Research Manager, explained that co-housing offers a far more sustainable option for buyers. It seems to be proving to be a more efficient way of living, as the cost of powering communal properties on an ongoing basis seems to be markedly affordable overall.
Last March, the UK’s Minister for Housing and Local Government, Mark Prisk, discussed the possibility of making public sector land available for self-build developments during a visit to LILAC, a communal housing project in Leeds that is making use of local straw bale material to construct a co-housing development. The Minister also announced measures to assist in the development stages of other community-led housing projects during the visit.
The concept also has the potential to provide solutions for affordable post-retirement housing. Earlier this month, a group of women in High Barnet received planning permission to build a new development consisting of 25 flats for women over the age of 50. Introduced by Dutch development projects, the group, known as Older Women’s Cohousing (OWCH), began meeting in 1998 with the aim of combating the isolation that some women face over the age of 50 by developing a community of self-contained flats.
Other innovative forms of cost-effective housing may be gaining interest among potential UK home-owners. The WikiHouse concept has reportedly generated enough intrigue to pique the Government’s interest. WikiHouse claims to be “an open-source construction set” that allows individuals to “design, download and ‘print’ CNC-milled houses and components”, which can be assembled with minimal training. Meanwhile, Swedish-based BoKlok, which is partly owned by Ikea, recently developed and completely sold out an affordable and eco-friendly village in Gateshead using wood and sustainable production methods to ensure sufficient energy consumption.
In what ways might these comprehensive schemes lead the property market, in new ways of looking at building properties as well as flexible ownership?