Gather a community
At the heart of any collaborative housing project, there is a community of people living together. Finding a community that works for you is one of the big challenges for a successful collaborative housing project. You will need to think about who you want to live with and how to connect those people.
How many people do you want to live with?
Would you prefer to live collaboratively with just a handful of others or with a large community? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but it does start to determine what kind of collaborative housing approach is right for you – large or small.
While any size can work, many collaborative housing experts say that the ideal size for a community to get the greatest benefits is between 10 and 50 households. With less than 10 households, there is less of a community feel and less chance of finding somebody else around when you want to socialise. With more than 50 households, it becomes difficult to get to know everybody and feel like you are all part of a community.
What kind of people do you want to live with?
Do you want to live with close family, extended family, friends or people you don’t yet know? Do you want to live with people of a similar age to you, or in an intergenerational community? Are you looking for a diverse community or people that are like you?
Again, there is no right or wrong answer, but you do need to think about what you are looking for. Some older people enjoy engaging with younger generations and say that it gives them energy, while others would prefer peace and quiet! Have a think about your own preferences.
How can you find those people?
In the age of social media, finding people with an interest in forming a community is easier than it’s ever been, but this can still be challenging. You need to find people that have similar answers to the questions above and want to live in the same area.
Often, the seed for a community grows out of some other group – a family, a group of friends, a volunteer group, who discover a shared interest in collaborative housing. They might then set up a Facebook group to reach out to others, like these examples from The AGEncy Project and NewCoh. You could also use platforms like Meetup to search for local groups or start your own, like this Sydney cohousing interest group.
There is also a Co-Living Network that has been set up specifically to help people interested in collaborative housing to find each other. Cohousing Australia is another good place to find people interested in collaborative housing.
What can you do to build a community?
Once you’ve found the core of your community, there’s a lot you can do to build a sense of community before you have even found a site. In fact, it’s really important to focus on building your community first and your collaborative housing second. You need to work out your vision, interests and aspirations, and how you will make decisions together. If you can get the community working together smoothly, it’s much more likely that things will continue to work when you’re living together.
Usually, this stage will involve regular meetings of those who are committed to the idea and events to attract others, if needed. Often, this will lead to decisions about how to manage the community and suitable ownership models , such as cooperative models.
Image courtesy of Kate Longley