Tel: 01434 600633
Copyright RRCA 2013
RRCA has been carrying out research to explore interest in developing cohousing groups amongst older people in Newcastle upon Tyne and the surrounding areas. The research, which was commissioned by Newcastle University, Newcastle Elders Council and the Quality of Life Partnership in 2011 and completed in 2012, involved a series of workshops with older people, housing developers and social housing organisations, architects, politicians and decision makers to explore the appetite of different groups of people for cohousing and coproduction methods.
What is co-housing?
It’s essentially a way of living that brings individuals together in groups to share common aims and activities but people also have their own self-contained living accommodation and private space. It is often called an intentional community because people choose whom they want as their neighbours and choose to share space with them, such as, a social room or leisure and hobby spaces or work space.
Co-housing can be developed in any kind of tenure – so it can be purely for rent, part rented and part owned, or wholly owned by the people who live there. The properties that co-housing is developed in might be purpose built and new or old properties that are redeveloped or a mixture of old and new. The people who get together to develop co-housing generally make key decisions about the property or properties, beginning with the decision to build new or acquire properties through the design stage to when the properties are lived in. After properties are developed people continue to make decisions together for example deciding how to invite new people to join or deal with bills for heat and light for areas people share and for things like repair and maintenance costs.
Co-housing for older people has additional elements including social agreements and arrangements to give and receive support and care. The arrangements are made by people themselves to suit the way they want to live. So for example, social agreements include things like taking turns to provide a shared meal once a month and meeting together regularly. Arrangements for support cover things like transport and helping each other when someone is ill. Some co-housing group members agree to contribute together to buy the services of a care professional or cook and this gives everyone who needs to have this kind of help more choice and helps keep costs to individuals low.
Cohousing is very popular in North America, Sweden, France and Denmark. It is becoming more popular in the UK and there are cohousing communities in Leeds, Lancaster, Stroud and other places. There are no current only people only cohousing developments in the UK but this will change when the first older people only group opens its doors to its new community in London this year or next.
Findings from the research in Newcastle showed that there is a considerable appetite for cohousing amongst people of all ages but particularly older people. Many people really like the idea of working together. The workshops indicated that people also like coproducing and there is a great interest in doing more work together rather than being led by professionals. There is a huge potential for people to support each other better and the research identified the need to think more laterally and imaginatively about the best ways to help people do what they can do rather than focus on the things that they cannot do. For example, people can support each other virtually and or ensure that they share important information and social networks even if they do not live in the same cohousing development or the same street or town or village.
A report which brought together the findings from the action research was published this year. To find out how the research was put together and how each workshop contributed to it, visit the NOW website.
The research report does not cover all the angles that it was hoped could be covered. The group of people who commissioned the research are keen to make sure that the key messages of the report reach social care and housing commissioners and decision makers as well as older people themselves who are looking for alternative housing, support and care options. A series of new outputs have therefore just been commissioned by the Housing Learning and Improvement Network and the Quality of Life Partnership and Newcastle Elders Council. They will be available from late June 2013.
The cohousing work carries on a long tradition within RRCA for ethical research which is led by and is responsive to the needs of consumers.
Exploring the possibility of change (Cohousing report)