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Women lead cohousing solution

Earthsong cohousing development in Auckland. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Wairarapa women concerned about the housing crisis have met like-minded others in Taupo to discuss solutions, led by pioneer cohousing exponent Robin Allison.

Allison is an architect who was the development co-ordinator for a groundbreaking housing development in Auckland called Earthsong.

She will be speaking in Carterton on Wednesday about her new book, which is based on her experience .

The meeting in Taupo, attended by more than 30 women from around New Zealand including a group from across Wairarapa, was called ‘Women Revolutionising Housing’.

The premise of the gathering was “quality housing is the foundation of human thriving”.

“We are fed up with seeing the well-being and potential of our children, communities and future generations being compromised by low quality, expensive and insecure housing.

“Women across Aotearoa are creating and leading bold and innovative housing initiative that are redefining housing.”

Robin Allison, New Zealand cohousing pioneer.

Allison spoke to the group of more than 30 women about Earthsong, the Auckland development she co-ordinated and where she lives.

“We are a 32-home neighbourhood based on a co-housing model.

“It is driven by the residents who have ownership of a home plus shared parts. They manage the facilities together, which is like another layer of the home they share.

“There is a commitment to being good neighbours and it’s a more friendly, supported lifestyle,” she said.

The community has organised and spontaneous get-togethers, and a shared set of rules, called agreements.

“We came up with them ourselves to manage shared life. For example, we don’t use power tools on a Sunday. We don’t use non-organic fertilisers or sprays.”

The community relies on a shared philosophy of environmental and social sustainability, which informs how they organise including resolving disputes.

The first tranche of the development was completed in 2002, and the last part in 2008.

Allison will be describing her experience developing Earthsong at a presentation next week in Carterton.

She will also be talking about her new book ‘Cohousing for Life’.

“The book itself is the sum of my experience written with the intention of helping others set up similar neighbourhoods,” she said.

“It’s a model which is quite adaptable. Each group works out for itself what is possible. Cohousing is a very useful model.”

Allison said there were other precedents in New Zealand, as well as the USA and other parts of the world.

“It can be between 10 to 40 households, low-density rural or high-density urban situations.”

She said it particularly suited a range of different ages, with parents with young children benefiting from having older adults nearby.

“Older people have wisdom and experience to share, while younger people have energy and benefit from having more adults around.”

She was looking forward to coming to Carterton.

“Often coming to a seminar like this catalyses people to start their own projects.”

Wairarapa attendees at the Taupo meeting came away inspired after hearing Allison speak.

Lily Tanner, a student from Masterton, said it felt really powerful for women to get together to discuss housing which was a ‘massive issue’.

“Every woman that came had their own experience of being a woman in the current reality and their own solution.”

Housing problems discussed had included unaffordability, shortages and quality.

“There were a lot of amazing women doing a lot of amazing things. I feel quite energised. I came away with some hope,” she said.

Carterton author Catherine Cooper agreed.

“It was very well facilitated.

“The cohousing model is meeting a need a lot of people feel.

“It wasn’t just idealism, but also practical experience and advice,” she said.

Allison will be speaking about cohousing and her book, Cohousing for Life, at the Carterton Community Courthouse in Holloway St on Wednesday June 23, from 7pm to 8.30pm.

Entry is free or by koha.

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