Thu. May 30th, 2024

Everything’s All Set: Dan’s Fam Moving into a House with 11 Others – Totally Human Approved!

Jamie Roberts By Jamie Roberts May28,2024
Dan Prochazka watches as his two-year-old daughter scrambles up a mound of earth in front of their newly built home.
In a month’s time, at least 10 adults, four kids and a dog will be living under that roof.
The eight-bedroom, two-bathroom homestead is situated an hour-and-a-half out of Melbourne, near the regional town of Castlemaine. Most facilities are shared, including bathrooms, kitchens, the dining room and lounge areas.

It’s an alternative style of housing known as co-living — “share-housing but for grown-ups”, as Dan and his partner Nicola put it. Nicola’s experiences of living in Melbourne share houses pushed the couple to build their own home.

A man in a flat cap and a woman in a floral dress smile widely while an infant balances on a backpack between them, holding both their hands

The co-living homestead is the brainchild of Dan and Nicola, who will be moving in with their two-year-old daughter. Source: Supplied / Open Field Co-Living Homestead

“She just found the instability of rental housing and the really poor quality of rental housing quite hard,” Dan said.

The couple is screening potential tenants for the last bedroom. The newcomers will need to be compatible with the rest of the group, living in such close quarters.

The housemates are aged between their late 20s and 40s, and include singles, couples with children and a single mum. They’re expected to work closely together — including doing chores, cooking, eating, gardening and eventually raising animals for food.

A toddler in a bucket hat holds a doll by the hand, facing away towards a long building with windows

The housemates are planning to move in May, when construction has finished on the homestead. Source: Supplied / Open Field Co-Living Homestead

This might conjure up images of hippies and communes — but Dan doesn’t take that view.

“One of our incoming housemates was just like: ‘Oh, I’m so glad to find a co-living project, but you’re just normal people!’,” he said.

“It’s just somewhere to build a life and do it with others to try and address that sense of loneliness.”

What is co-living?

Co-living is dormitory-style housing, with fewer private spaces and extensive shared facilities.
“It’s a sexy way of saying boarding house or rooming house,” said Goro Gupta, a property developer who jointly owns four co-living homes and has helped build over 20.

Companies are marketing co-living as a trendy lifestyle, including this New York City home with 24 inhabitants.

Caitlin McGee is research director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney. While co-living is common in parts of the world such as Scandinavia, McGee said there’s a gap in the market in Australia.
“In Australia, it’s either you own on the private market, you rent on the private market, or you are in some kind of social housing,” she said.

“Whereas in Europe, there’s a whole lot of things in between that are really good options for people who are struggling to afford housing.”

An artist's impression of a living room with two slices of pizza and wine on the coffee table. Outside the window, four people sit around a campfire

Co-living is often a more affordable alternative to traditional renting. Source: Supplied / Open Field Co-Living Homestead

What are the benefits of co-living?

McGee believes co-living, if done well, could help make housing more affordable.
“It’s not a silver bullet, but it is an important piece of the puzzle in solving the housing crisis,” she said.

Dan is charging $190 to $250 a week per bedroom — in comparison, renters are forking out around $400 for one- or two-bedroom homes in Castlemaine.

“Trying to address some of that missing middle – people who aren’t quite eligible for social housing, but are just struggling to get by and have housing security,” Dan said.
In the inner-Melbourne suburb of Northcote, Gupta has converted his childhood home into a six-bedroom co-living space.

“Instead of selling it an auction and being rented to one family … we’ve got 12 people living there. That eases the housing crisis,” he said.

A smiling man with a handlebar moustache spreads his arms wide while standing in front of the frame of an unfinished house

Goro Gupta owns four co-living homes with his family and has helped build over 20 in total. Source: Supplied

McGee said there are other ways to cut costs, including groups of friends teaming up to buy land and paying one set of stamp duty. Ageing parents could also convert their homes to accommodate adult children and their families.

“You also can then share things as well, like cars, tools … you can even share services like babysitting or care for the elderly,” McGee said.

However, McGee warned some co-living spaces are not necessarily affordable, like those geared towards young professionals.

A smiling woman with short, light brown hair in a striped top

Caitlin McGee researches collaborative housing at the University of Technology, Sydney. Source: Supplied / Andy Roberts

“Some of them are actually quite expensive, they’re like luxury models,” she said.

Increased social connection and making cities more efficient are other benefits of co-living.
“It can be really useful in what are called middle ring suburbs, where there are often a lot of big old houses … and the community’s against putting big apartments in,” McGee said.

“One big family house, but it houses three households … that’s got to be a win in terms of urban sustainability.”

How many Australians are co-living?

It’s difficult to guess how many people are co-living in Australia, as it’s not recorded in the Census.
A 2018 joint study by the University of Queensland and Griffith University found there’s been a shift towards communal housing in general — the number of people living communally rose by over 40 per cent between 2001 and 2016.

The study estimated over 25,000 Australians across 1,700 communities live in group dwellings of five or more unrelated people and “share aspects of living for collective community benefit”.

What are the potential downsides of co-living?

As Australians get used to living in ever-smaller spaces, there are concerns co-living could create slum-like living conditions.
“When I was an architect and we used to sometimes do jobs for these developers … they’d walk in and the first question was, ‘How many apartments can you squeeze in?'” researcher Caitlin McGee recalled.

“You do want to have compact housing, but it’s got to be well designed for people and a good place to live.”

Then there are the usual annoyances of living with other people: noise, reduced privacy and mess.
Dan Prochazka, who’s preparing to move into his 14-person house, said there’s still a stigma attached to co-living.
“A lot of the houses are just pretty crap … people kind of have a bad time in those situations,” he said.

“We’ve tried to design in systems where you’re not waiting ages for the bathroom and the kitchen can have six people working in it.”

A floor plan of an eight-bedroom house

Dan says he designed the house to comfortably fit up to 15 people and with sustainability in mind. Source: Supplied / Open Field Co-Living Homestead

There’s also the red tape of setting up a co-living space. Banks and local councils are often wary of backing unconventional housing.

“Banks don’t want to lend to a bunch of people…they want to lend to a single entity,” McGee explained.
“Councils were really open to the idea…but they were worried about people gaming the system and designing their houses this way and then not genuinely living in a co-living arrangement.”
Developer Goro Gupta said he registers all his co-living properties as rooming houses — but not everyone is following the rules.

“A lot of people do it illegally … they just put a thing up on … a website,” he said.

As Dan puts the finishing touches on the building, one thing he’s looking forward to is housing security. If the first year of living together is a success, he’s planning to offer the housemates five-year leases.

“Hopefully people can build a life now … rather than be stuck in this is crazy housing affordability.”

Jamie Roberts

By Jamie Roberts

Jamie is an award-winning investigative journalist with a focus on uncovering corruption and advocating for social justice. With over a decade of experience in the field, Jamie's work has been instrumental in bringing about positive change in various communities.

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2 thoughts on “Everything’s All Set: Dan’s Fam Moving into a House with 11 Others – Totally Human Approved!”
  1. It’s inspiring to see Dan and Nicola creating a co-living space that fosters community and shared responsibilities. This unique housing concept truly promotes connection and sustainability. I hope the future housemates embrace this lifestyle wholeheartedly!

  2. Co-living seems like a fantastic idea for those seeking a sense of community and shared responsibilities. It’s inspiring to see Dan and Nicola creating a space where people of different backgrounds can come together and live harmoniously. Hopefully, this trend catches on and more people consider this alternative housing style.

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