Australian architect's radical solution to downsizing the family home ... without moving
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Australian architect's radical solution to downsizing the family home ... without moving

As Australia's population continues to grow, so too does the amount of under-utilised space in people’s houses, particularly older individuals and couples who are still living in the family home.

Some choose to stay in the big house into their twilight years while others decide to sell up and downsize to a smaller property or retirement village.

Perth architect, Meriam Salama says co-living could help improve Perth's density.

Perth architect, Meriam Salama says co-living could help improve Perth's density. Credit:The Henry Project

But Perth architect Meriam Salama says there is another option for retirees deciding what to do with the family block.

It’s called co-living and it involves an owner choosing to modify their home into two or three smaller living spaces and sharing part of the equity in the home with individuals looking for an affordable entry into the market.

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“This is a way to let people modify existing houses so that there can be multiple people living in it, it’s not intended to be like a share house arrangement, it’s more about giving people their independent spaces, but also spaces that they can share,” Ms Salama said.

“The idea is that people could share ownership of that dwelling through a co-ownership model, but it’s not essential, for example, it might be the instance where there’s an older single woman living in the house and it used to be her family home and she wants to retain ownership of it - she can still modify the house and rent out portions of it, as opposed to selling it.

“Through the co-ownership model she does have the opportunity to release some of the equity by selling a portion of the property.”

The co-living spaces would allow for private spaces, as well as some shared areas.

The co-living spaces would allow for private spaces, as well as some shared areas.Credit:The Henry Project

Ms Salama said co-living had the ability to provide retirees and first home owners with better housing affordable options, but also had the potential to have positive impacts on increasing Australian cities' density.

“It’s like a sneaky density approach, you are increasing the density, but from a planning perspective, you’re retaining the house as a single dwelling,” she said.

Speaking at an RAC industry breakfast in Perth on Monday, strategy and insights expert Barrie Barton said Australian cities needed to think differently about how to achieve higher density living.

“The population is like a hockey stick at the moment, it is moving so incredibly fast and so much of our infrastructure in our cities are not fit for purpose, they cannot cope with that number of people,” he said.

“We need to get much better at getting by with less space, we need to get much more economical.

“The huge towers, are of their time... the new future of high density living is not high architecture.”

Neville and wife Christine, both in their 60s, have been living in a co-ownership agreement with a couple in their 40s and their two children, for more than 17 years.

The group share a five acre hobby farm.

“Neither couple could afford the property at the time but we were each able to raise the loans for half the property,” Neville said.

“So the ladies got their horse farm. They also got company, particularly in the case of my wife when I was away at work most of the time.

“Christine has an occasional medical condition that means it is reassuring for her to have company – something I could not provide when I was working away.”

The three generations shared a four bedroom house on the property until the younger couple’s children reached their teens.

When that occurred, Neville and Christine built a granny flat on the property for additional space, and came to an agreement on how to split the cost of the construction.

Ms Salama said the idea of co-living was still relatively new, but that her company, The Henry Project, had been in discussions with homeowners to optimise their dwelling for co-living.

Heather McNeill covers breaking news with a focus on crime, courts and Aboriginal affairs for WAtoday.

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