Essay: Cohousing: A Model for Australia

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[. . .] On the other hand, new models have developed in the United States, which have reduced risks, costs, and resident involvement (McCamant & Charles, 1994).

Developers have shown an increased interest in financing and building cohouses both speculatively and in partnership with prospective residents (Durrett, 2005). In addition, residents are forming their own cohousing communities in current neighborhoods through creating communal facilities, taking down fences, and assuming responsibility for general maintenance and management. In the recent decade, the percentage of communities opting to retrofit or tear down existing barriers such as fences to create a community space has tripled. For future prospects, McCamant and Charles (1994) wrote:

"The cohousing concept is as much a process for developing housing as it is a new housing type…The cohousing model offers a new perspective on Western society's concept of home and community. Yet, it clearly has its limitations. At an average size of 15 to 35 units, cohousing developments have limited impact on larger urban and regional design issues. Cohousing may begin to reintegrate work and housing…" (p.279).

Cohousing in Japan

The model adopted in Japan varies from the one in Europe and America because of the lack of the participatory process. Cohousing in this Asian region was however inspired by those in Denmark and took root after the earthquake in 1995. The purpose of cohousing sought to satisfy and resolve the problems associated with Japanese lifestyle of being busy at work all day and night. The greatest inhabitant of cohouses in Japan are the low-income citizens, and the elderly who appreciate the importance of partnership as a fundamental factor of overcoming life hurdles. This Japanese model is lauded for its unique characteristic of being popular even in the absence of a concrete participatory process where the sharing of facilities would be enhanced. In fact, conflict resolution is possible even without the common factor. However, there is a hidden suffering among the residents since they may have received limited training on how to survive in the cohousing model. This has prompted the National Institute of Public Health to devise ways of improving the living standards relating to the social dynamics of the cohouses (Cooper-Marcus, 2010).

Factors increasing the development of cohousing

Modern cities face increasing challenges of population growth, social isolation, resource distribution, and housing shortages influenced by climate change. Reducing traffic, managing growth, sharing resources, and creating sustainable resources are some of the challenges associated with modern housing (McCamant & Charles, 1994). McCamant and Charles (1994) write: "Nevertheless, cohousing communities can save money by limiting the number of floor plans to one for each house size, and by keeping finish options- flooring, cabinets…-to a manageable number" (p.279). From these challenges, the importance of a person to create a change stems from an individual's desire to acquire control over the way of living. For individuals living in democratic societies, the concept of choice and autonomy are embedded but do not have control over their lifestyles. They cannot claim to be living according to their lifestyle or chose the individuals they desire to be their neighbors (Cooper-Marcus, 2010).

In most cases, giant corporations dictate people's contemporary lives as approximately eighty percent of the workforce work for corporations (McCamant & Charles, 1994). Where what they can afford and what shape people live and where they eat is sold to them. In fact, many people are looking to regain control over their lives. Cohousing is increasingly gaining popularity as a source of community empowerment. Empowerment enables people to act collectively and have an understanding of their circumstances while controlling their lives.

Factors hamper the development of cohousing within Australia

The following factors derail the growth and development of the market of cohousing in Australia:

I. Unfamiliarity of the model of cohousing both to the housing sector and to the older generations

II. The difficulty of locating sites, the cost of land and the dominance of volume developers

III. Policy makers are unwilling to learn from successful experiences overseas

IV. Unwillingness to innovate and lack of leadership at the national policy making level

V. Blockages by the local authority planning such as departmental silos (McCamant & Charles, 1994)

VI. Local authorities have neglected the vast majority of citizens who are aging and have similarly failed to prepare sufficiently for the ageing society

VII. Few alternatives for older people dominate including sheltered housing

VIII. A culture of institutional paternalism related to ageism and older people

IX. Lack of support infrastructure to supply expert skills and finances for older people to create cohousing projects (Cooper-Marcus, 2010)

Conclusion

Cohousing communities are viewed as an old-fashioned neighborhood that consolidates the value of private homes with the advantages of sustainable living. This means that good connections and common facilities are encouraged in the community. In the urban environment, exclusiveness, isolation, and individuality are eminent. A previously common environment where neighbors knew one another and supported one another has greatly changed. It is rare for this form of participation and belonging to exist in a local microenvironment. Cohousing is an alternative way of living for the ordinary citizens. Therefore, cohousing communities serve as innovative solutions for today's social and environmental problems. It is also categorized as an adventure for acclimating to the challenges people are facing and for changing lifestyles (McCamant & Charles, 1994).

References

Cooper-Marcus, C. (2010). Site Planning, Building Design and a Sense of Community: An Analysis of Six Cohousing Schemes in Denmark, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 17 (Summer 2000)

Durrett, C, (2005). Senior… [END OF PREVIEW]

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