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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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Event today will show people how European co-housing models can work here

The event will hear from a number of groups who are working to regularise the model here as well as experts on how to manage the financial and legal issues.

AN EVENT TODAY is aiming to show Irish people how alternative approaches to housing in other European countries and the US could be used here to help tackle the supply shortage.

SOA Reseach CLG is a non-profit think tank, mostly made up of Irish architects, which was formed in 2017. Its event in Dublin today will provide information on the co-housing model, which began in Denmark in the 1960.

Groups of families started to come together to build their own community housing projects, sharing the cost and making decisions for themselves about how their living space would look and who they would share it with.

Projects usually start with an architect or group of people who work in the building sector who may or may not plan to live in the development themselves. They bring together a group of households who are looking to buy property and come up with a plan for how they want to organise the space and what they want included on the campus.

Funds from individual mortgages for each household are pooled for the purchase of the plot and to cover construction costs. Everyone in the apartment building or housing estate has their own unit, complete with bedrooms, living areas, kitchens and bathrooms.

On top of that, most of these co-housing projects include large communal spaces such as vegetable patches, workshops, shared office space, libraries and roof gardens.

Today’s event takes place at DIT Linenhall on Henrietta Place from 12pm and will include contributions from groups across the country who are already working to regularise the model here. 

The event is supported by the State’s Housing Agency and the government has already shown a willingness to support this model. A version of co-housing exists on a small-scale, in organisations like Ó Cualann, which has built a number of affordable homes on land it bought at a heavily discounted rate from Dublin City Council. 

Buyers were required to earn no more than a combined income of €79,000 and they had to provide a 10% deposit and mortgage approval.

Here the model differed to some of those in Europe as the financing and design was all decided by the organisation and then families were moved in, rather than being involved at the very beginning of the process. Ó Cualann’s first project in Ballymun also did not include any common areas.

However the organisation and others are keen to move more towards the European style of community housing. 

The event today also includes workshops on financial and legal issues to discuss the practicalities of doing projects like this in Ireland, where processes and systems are different to those in other European countries that have the model. 

Cutting out the developer in these projects enables the buyers to keep costs lower and allows them to have more control over their homes and who they live beside from the very beginning of the project.

Co-housing has become almost mainstream now in many European countries, including Germany, where public and voluntary supports have been built up around it.

These include the sale of public land to sustainable projects like co-housing groups, land trusts that buy up land and re-lease it to these projects and alternative banks that provide financing.

Director of SOA Research CLG, Tom O’Donnell who is an Irish architect, told TheJournal.ie that the event will be informal and will give groups and people who are interested in the model a chance to network and learn more. 

“We have designed an info ‘zine’, the backside of which is blank except for a small number of headings. People who wish to start a group can can fill this in and use it a basis for discussion with other potential future neighbours,” he said.

We are delighted to have someone from the Irish League of Credit Unions, Community Finance Ireland, Property Bridges and a solicitor with a background in cooperatives to observe and comment. We also hope to be able to discuss briefly Community Land Trusts and other strategies for guaranteeing long-term affordability and self-organisation.

“We will have an exhibition of examples of European housing which we have imported from Berlin. Our event is free and people may come and go as they please. We also hope that this will be a regular quarterly event and hope to take it to Cork in May,” he said.

The event runs from 12-4pm today at DIT Linenhall on Henrietta Place in Dublin and the full schedule is available here. Organisers will also host a major conference on co-housing in May this year. 

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