Charles Durret visits Adelaide in April 2016

With construction well and truly underway at Orchard Walk, Living Not Beige has turned its attention outwards again. In April this year, Charles Durret of Co-housing USA visited Australia for a series of presentations around the country. He inspired many new co-housing enthusiasts and reminded many more of the value of developing community as an integral part of developing housing.

Charles’ trip was hosted by The Australian Centre for Social innovation. TACSI also convenes the annual Changemakers Festival at which LNB initially launched its innovative model of residential development. So it’s from within this network of innovation and change that the notion of community as a part of, and as a conscious outcome of property development, is gathering momentum around the edges of the Australian housing markets.

Other community orientated developers

Following the Adelaide presentation,  I met with Michael Bosio (Community orientated residential developments -CORD) Ed Wilby (Alliance of Intentional Communities) and Elle Vallance (Adelaide Co-housing project.) to discuss where each of us is heading in the community/development space.  Connecting with like-minded organisations is something that will benefit us all as we have much in common, including a more engaging approach to neighbourhood and a commitment to sustainable community. But it’s refreshing to know that we each differ in our approach to development.

LNB Concept development

LNB matches housing demand with supply by offering geographically specific projects then it supports the emerging community to become whatever the community itself determines. We’ve been deliberate in our avoidance of the term ‘co-housing’ and ‘intentional’ community because both require that the community forms before the project does.  This is not our approach. We see location as being a critical factor in people’s decision-making about the place they will call home, (though our Aldinga project has attracted some people from far and wide, including London! ). But with inevitable exceptions to the rule aside, people tend to know whether they’re interested in living north or south, hills or beach etc. and location of people’s existing networks and their family and stage of life is often critical in decision-making too. Identifying broad project location therefore provides the first filter in the LNB approach. We then suggest concepts in response to feedback before further developing a project.

Responding to feedback

In the Aldinga project for example, we developed four different concepts – including a three storey idea which had an elevated, shared promenade on the upper floor!  The site plan and configuration of homes gradually emerged to become what was submitted to Council. Eventually, with some properties pre-committed, we offered that product to the market, inviting people to join us on the journey. The sooner people join in, the greater their capacity to influence its emerging nature and form. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of developing the Orchard Walk project.  Intending residents determined the layout of the site and each of them altered floorplans to suit their needs.  A standard design was the starting point but each home is individual and it’s a joy to now see them being built. Our approach during the development phase is responsive and flexible, our aim being to support future residents to create the place where they will live. We continue to engage residents around the proposed permaculture landscape, a playscape and art in the environment.