Could this be the answer to our housing crisis?

It’s no secret that along with the rest of Australia, we are in the midst of a housing crisis. Lines at open houses for sale and rent across the region seem insurmountable and competition has hit record rates. We are at a point now, in the Gympie Region where the average sale price has hit $470,000 with people scrambling for properties and the average rental price is $450/wk with vacancy rates nearing 0%. While affordability is certainly an issue, availability seems to be the big problem we are facing.

Share housing, co-housing and communal living are not new concepts, but they are beginning to find their way into the contemporary vernacular and becoming more mainstream. With housing affordability and availability having hit a crisis point, people are looking for alternative ways to live to simply have a roof over their heads. Ask any real estate agent and they will tell you that they are having conversations daily with people looking for multiple living options. People are wanting to extend their home or property to family and friends. “Dual Living” has become a trending search term when looking for a property. Finding a place with a Granny Flat has been like finding gold all over again.

Answers about what to do to curb this situation have been few and far between. While the market of supply and demand certainly takes some of the brunt of the blame, local councils and the speed at which they can process development applications takes some too. But that is not all that is in the picture. Builders are under extreme pressure and are often booked out for many months if not years, while also dealing with a lull in the availability of materials coupled with price increases. The suitability of land without wiping out plants or animal species is a concern too.

Recently, there has been a boom in the interest in the tiny homes movement. Expos and demonstrations around the country have shown massive numbers of visitors to see what it’s all about. While a really cool option for many, they are full of red tape and difficulties from a governance and compliance perspective. As it stands, technically a tiny house should be built on wheels. As such, it is viewed and governed as a caravan. The trick with that is, you cannot get approval to live in your caravan on your land full time. If it was not on wheels, in order to be approved, there are several building regulations and requirements that must be met which then makes a home of that size practically impossible. So, before the tiny home can become a viable option, our local, state and federal governments need to work on legislation to ensure safety, compliance and ultimately include tiny homes as a potential housing option for our community as a whole.

Another choice that one may begin thinking about is communal living. I recently had Dr Jason Hilder on my podcast and we were discussing the practicalities along with the highs and lows of intentional community living. Jason is a Community Development Specialist with a PhD from The University of Queensland in Communal Living Arrangements. Jason believes that separated living has brought with it increased social disharmony, a growing ecological footprint and an affordability crisis. Situations where people reside communally, such as Intentional Community Living Arrangements (ICLAs), may provide opportunities for renewed social cohesion, ecologically sustainable applications, and improved economic efficiencies.

Communal living and co-housing are collaborative housing models where typically multiple private homes are assembled around a shared space. Often they will include shared living spaces such as laundry, kitchen, communal living areas and gardens. This makes for massive reductions in build costs and has benefits in ongoing sustainability outcomes. Renewable energy can be pooled throughout the property, even share transport can become a part of this model.

Working collaboratively with your neighbours, pooling resources and skills is not only practical financially, but it can also be extremely rewarding. By purchasing land together and incorporating aspects of housing can save hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively.

Let’s look at this in a practical sense and use some round figures (without legal fees and other associated costs). If you had a group of 5 households looking at building a community together. This might include couples, singles or families. Some average costs would be:

2 acre block - $300,000

House avg. 200m2 at $1,600/m2 - $320,000

Starting costs before anything else - $620,000

With a group of 5:

10 acre block - $500,000

Shared Living spaces - Laundry (10m2), kitchen (20m2), Living (60m2) = $144,000

Private living space (80m2) - $128,000 x 5 = $640,000

This totals - $1,284,000 or $256,800 per household

Bear in mind, this rough breakdown is based around a brand new build, with alternative housing methods, it could be considerably cheaper. You could certainly also adjust the amount of space or households involved. But what this breakdown shows is that by taking advantage of a collaborative model, your initial costs would be around 40% of the cost of separated living. This doesn’t even begin to look at ongoing living costs. With communal gardens, ride-sharing, renewable energy, collaborative meals, skill-sharing and more, the cost of living day to day is significantly lower as well.

This model has been proven time and time again all around the world. It should be noted that communal living is certainly not for everyone. There has to be a shared vision and framework implemented to ensure longevity and conflict is kept minimal, but this can be learned and worked out. Jason is a consultant who works with groups and communities to help guide and transition to an effective, intentional community.

We are holding a workshop on 11th Dec at Gympie Landcare for those interested in looking into this further. Follow the QR Code for more information and how to book.

Editor Note: Community living is an interesting concept that addresses affordability, supply and timing. While community living may not be for everyone, it offers flexibility in terms of how it is done and allows the opportunity for a real community lifestyle. Issues can be managed through conflict resolution and a body corporate style setup and building guidelines. On the approval side, benefits could include less expenses and maintenance (with more rates) to council due to the development having responsibility for some/all infrastructure requirements. Check out this example in Tasmania that is happening now.

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Eco Convos with Dan

Century 21 Eco and Lifestyle Property Specialist

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