Building Collectives: Co-housers in Urban New Zealand
Co-housing is a new mode of urban dwelling that is becoming increasingly prominent in New Zealand. In this thesis I engage with this emerging form of dwelling by exploring what motivates individuals and groups to create co-housing and describing what building collectives look like in an urban New Zealand context. I delve into the motivations, struggles, experiences, and design decisions of urban co-housers. In order to do this, I spent three months travelling to five different co-housing projects across Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. I conducted seven semi-structured ethnographic interviews with 12 participants, supplemented by blogs, site visits, websites, and my time at the CoHoHui conference in Wellington. Using these methods, I show that co-housing in urban New Zealand is a new mode of dwelling, which is emerging primarily as a response to three crises: loneliness and social isolation, un-affordable and inadequate housing, and the climate crisis. The way in which my participants responded to these crises can be observed throughout their journeys. These three crises are evident in co-housers motivation to create co-housing, their methods of working within and around New Zealand’s “developer landscape,” and how they physically designed their communities. My participants are rejecting the dominant typologies of urban housing in New Zealand, which they feel they do not adequately address these three crises. In doing so, they are creating alternative futures that they believe are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. While my participants do not always achieve everything they hope to, by creating alternative futures through new modes of urban dwelling, my participants are highlighting the fact that things can be different and showing us how these changes might be achieved.