Common questions

Collaborative housing is a relatively new movement, and so most people are unfamiliar with how it works. There are also some misconceptions about what it is and who it’s for and what makes it different. Here are some answers to common questions people ask when they first hear about it.

Is it only for alternative lifestyles?

Not at all. While some projects fit into that category, there are plenty of options to suit mainstream lifestyles.

How much is shared?

It can be a little or a lot – this is entirely up to your group. Sharing is an important principle of collaborative housing as it saves money, helps to build community and reduces environmental impact. But how you go about it is your decision. Read more on the spectrum of sharing options.

What about when I just want privacy and my own space?

You can have it! In collaborative housing, shared spaces are balanced with sufficient private spaces to allow residents privacy and alone time whenever they need it.

Will everyone contribute fairly?

There are ways to help ensure each household contributes their fair share, whether it’s towards maintenance and upkeep, paying shared bills or working on community projects. When your group forms, establish clear shared expectations and set up participatory processes for management and decision making. These might be more or less formal depending on how many households you are, but they’re essential for smooth sailing. Also seek expert legal advice and put in place any necessary legal agreements.

What happens if households fall out with each other?

As in all aspects of life, some level of disagreement will inevitably occur. There are ways of helping to avoid conflict, ways of managing it when it does arise, and legal agreements that provide protection when disputes can’t be resolved. See our tips for getting along in smaller or larger projects.

What happens when a household wants to move out or sell?

Each community needs to discuss how they want this to work, seek expert legal advice and put the corresponding legal agreements in place. Some groups apply covenants designed to preserve affordability and community spirit, such as caps on resale price or rent, or giving other community members first right to purchase.

Is collaborative housing a good investment?

Collaborative housing is focused primarily on providing secure, affordable homes for people to live in. It’s grown in response to the problematic effects of speculative property investment on housing affordability and therefore development profits – and often resale prices – are capped to preserve affordability. Even with the cap, many private investors see collaborative housing as a good and stable investment – see the Nightingale model, for example.

Are my finances tied up with the finances of other households in the group?

In collaborative housing, each household retains its financial autonomy. However depending on the project, you might co-borrow with other households to finance development or co-own housing assets. In these cases seek expert financial and legal advice so that you understand the risks and have the appropriate legal agreements and protections in place.

If I rent out or sell off part of my home, will it affect my pension?

Profit from selling a portion of your main residence could be counted towards the asset test for the age pension and other social security benefits. Rental income could be counted in the income test for social security unless your boarder is a parent, child or sibling. There may also be implications for taxation. Read more and always seek tailored expert advice.

What will my beneficiaries inherit when I die?

The answer to this question depends on the type of collaborative housing and the title arrangements. If you own your dwelling it will become part of your estate as normal. If you own a share in a co-operative, it will also become part of your estate, although the co-operative may have rules about how this share can then be sold, to whom, and at what price. If you’re considering a collaborative retirement village, check your contract so that you understand all the exit costs and be sure to seek expert legal advice.

How do I talk to my family about collaborative housing options?

Not everyone has heard about the different types of collaborative housing. Family members may initially be confused if they’re not familiar with the idea, or may have different preconceptions about what collaborative housing is. Whether you’re interested in these options for yourself, or you want to canvass them with your parents as they grow older, this website provides a great resource to introduce people to the idea of collaborative housing. Show it to your family. Most of their initial questions will be answered so you can have a meaningful discussion about housing options.

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