New approaches to home-building are emerging in response to the multiple crises of climate change, unaffordable housing, deprivation and exclusion. Models for housing vary enormously, from self-build, to socially provided housing and speculative, private markets. But the failure of rent-based models to provide homes that people can afford, especially in big cities and larger towns, plus the urgent need for buildings to go zero-carbon, or carbon negative, is pushing innovation.
Recent examples of eco-housing projects led by City Councils in the UK include Exeter social housing project which created 200 council homes built to meet the German “Passivhaus” energy efficiency standard and Norwich Council’s social housing scheme.
All these schemes feature high-standards of energy efficiency in buildings and the use of recycled and sustainable building materials, as well as the provision of car-sharing facilities and small plots of land to grow food. What is largely missing from these projects however, is the co-housing and communal living element that was a major feature of the early developments of the eco-village movement, back in the 1960-70s.
- Innovative models of home ownership can help make low-carbon homes more affordable. Lilac co-housing project in Leeds – based on a mutual co-ownership society – provides an example of what this looks like in practice.
- Low carbon co-housing brings other social benefits beyond big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. They also facilitate co-ownership of resources and facilities and strengthen the values of cooperation and civic involvement among members.
- To replicate these sustainable co-housing projects at a larger scale and give the industry the confidence to invest in the long-term, stable policy intervention and government funding is essential.
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