What is co-housing, and could it work for you?

Co-housing is a way of living that offers many benefits, especially for seniors. If the concept is unfamiliar, you may be conjuring up images of a 1970s hippy commune, but rest assured you won’t have to wear tie dye t-shirts or become a vegan to be accepted!

In this article, we explain what co-housing is, where it originated, and provide an example of a co-housing community in action in Tasmania. Remember, if you’re considering downsizing or making living arrangements for your retirement, we’re here to help you find the right finance for your needs.

What is co-housing?

Co-housing is defined as ‘an intentional community’ of private homes built around shared facilities. These common spaces may include a common house with a shared kitchen and dining area where residents can cook and eat together. There may be community gardens, playgrounds and recreational spaces. Some co-housing developments may even include communal swimming pools and movie rooms for residents to enjoy.

Each household in the community is independent and fully equipped with its own amenities, including private kitchens and baths. However, the idea behind co-housing is for neighbours to be part of a collaborative community. Co-housing differs from regular retirement villages in that the community is owned and managed by the residents who live there.

The key benefits of a co-housing community are that residents may have the opportunity to collaborate over how it is set up, what amenities it includes and how much it costs.

Where did the idea originate?

The idea of co-housing started in Denmark in the 1960s. From Scandinavia, the concept spread to other parts of Europe, on to North America, and over to New Zealand and Australia.

Co-housing initiatives are now popping up in many parts of Australia, reinvigorating the concept of community. Seniors’ co-housing has been suggested as an alternative to aged care or retirement villages for those wishing to age in place.

What are the benefits?

Enthusiasts believe co-housing offers the following advantages:

  • More meaningful relationships with neighbours.
  • A feeling of belonging, in that you’re part of a community.
  • Reduces loneliness and isolation by connecting you with others.
  • A collaborative culture of sharing and caring.
  • Maintenance tasks are divided among the community.
  • Decisions affecting the community are based on the consensus.
  • You still have privacy, as well as the support of your neighbours as needed.
  • Reduces household bills, as expenses for shared space are divided between residents.
  • Depending on your community, it may be less expensive than other housing options.
  • Reduces your environmental impact thanks to a “greener” approach to living.

An example of a co-housing community in action

Cascade Cohousing in South Hobart is a great example of a thriving co-housing community. Established in 1991, there are currently 22 adults, ranging in age from young families to retirees, and six children living in 15 privately-owned properties (on strata title).

There’s a central common house with a shared kitchen, dining area, lounge, laundry, workshop and TV room. Three nights a week, the residents get together for a meal, and once a month they hold body corporate meetings and working bees for maintenance. There are fun activities on offer like film nights, games evenings and gardening.

You can find examples of other established and emerging co-housing communities on the Cohousing Australia website.

What about finance?

Co-housing projects are usually set up on a strata title – like an apartment building. This allows for individual ownership of an actual lot or unit, whilst sharing ownership of the common grounds on which it is built. Lenders will require a professional valuation on your unit or lot before they will approve finance, just like with any other strata title property purchase.

If you are starting a co-housing community from scratch, organising finance can be tricky – as with any new strata title development – and will depend on many factors. Expert guidance will be required from a qualified solicitor to set up the strata title and body corporate structure correctly, however your mortgage broker can work with your professional team to help organise a finance structure once this is done.

If you’re entering the next phase of life, co-housing may be the way to go. However, we can help you explore all the finance options, whatever the next step in your property journey may be:

  • Family loans
  • Community or Retirement Living
  • Reverse Mortgages
  • Bridging Loans
  • Shared Mortgages

Securing the right kind of finance to start your exciting new chapter all starts with a chat with your friendly mortgage broker. Please talk to us about your retirement lifestyle plans and goals today!


This article provides general information only and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. We recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances and your full financial situation will need to be reviewed prior to acceptance of any offer or product. It does not constitute legal, tax or financial advice and you should always seek professional advice in relation to your individual circumstances.  Subject to lenders terms and conditions, fees and charges and eligibility criteria apply.

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Ben Judd

Ben Judd

Ben has made finance his life and has more than fifteen years experience in the banking and finance industry. Spending nearly a decade working for two massive Australian retail banks, Ben mastered the intricacies of the loan process from every conceivable angle. This insight proved a solid foundation before his move to mortgage broking in 2006. Ben has a superior level of product, loan structuring and general industry knowledge. This knowledge and Ben’s enthusiasm for tracking down the right product for his clients, guarantees complete satisfaction.

18th June 2018

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Ben Judd

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