Ireland's first co-housing project under way

Ireland's first co-housing project under way

The country’s first co-housing project, where residents repay one common loan on, and own shares in, an estate, is under way in Co Wicklow.

Called Common Ground Co-Housing, a group of people are coming together to form a company, locate a site, and access funding in order to build a community of 25 individual homes as well as a common house with gardens and allotments.

They are replicating a successful project called Lilac (low impact living affordable community) in Leeds, where 20 people currently live. The homes, built in 2012 and 2013, and land are managed by the residents, through what is known as a mutual home ownership society, a pioneering financial model and legal structure.

Deb Davis, a founding member of the housing group, said:

“We have been together now since September 2018. Our governance is sociocracy, which is where we are all equal. We are now a committed bunch of 33 people, about 25 households, with around 20 kids, so about a community of 53.

What Common Ground Co-Housing would be getting would be one big loan. We won’t be getting separate mortgages, so there won’t be 25 mortgages. It’ll be a monthly payment and it’ll be a third of your income.

Hugh Brennan, CEO of Ó Cualann, an approved housing body that develops affordable co-operative housing in Ireland, said the Common Ground Co-Housing model would be the “first of its kind” in the country.

“This type of cohousing project will be a first — it’s shared ownership,” said Mr Brennan.

“Common Ground is a great model — they have a smallish group of people and their model is different. Their co-op will own the land, they’ll pay a share. It won’t be owner-occupied.

“It’s a great scheme if you can get it funded, but they will need to get it funded, that’s not a criticism. The criticism is that funding does not exist like that in Ireland at the moment.”

Ms Davis said they are already in negotiations with a bank.

“We’ve told everyone who’s part of this that we need 10% of the build cost, so that would be, let’s keep it simple, around €20,000 per household,” she said. “So that already is in and around €500,000 in cash they’re bringing to the party.”

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