Inside Out: Is cohousing a solution to the housing crisis?

Inside Out: Is cohousing a solution to the housing crisis?

Foundations for a radical rethink on Ireland's approach to housing will be laid at a key event in Cork city this Saturday.

Cohousing is a way of building affordable and sustainable solutions to our current housing crisis, according to those behind the Cohousing Cafe, which is open to all and free to attend.

SOA, which stands for Self Organised Architecture, is hosting the event at Cork Centre for Architectural Education, Douglas Street, from 12pm to 4pm.

The organisers are the architects from SOA Research, who have strong Irish connections and are working in Germany, Denmark and Spain as well as Ireland.

So what does SOA do? “Through a series of projects we aim to inform the Irish public in regard to alternative, socially and environmentally sustainable housing models,” said Hamburg-based architect Tom O'Donnell.

The Spreefeld project in Berlin. Picture: Andrea Kroth.
The Spreefeld project in Berlin. Picture: Andrea Kroth.

One of the biggest differences between the shared-living and cohousing concepts is that with the latter, residents have agency, according to SOA: The concept is resident-led accommodation from design to management.

The experienced team has been examining the best solutions on offer in Europe as well as the United States and the Cohousing Cafe events showcase these.

“The ‘Cohousing Café’ is an event title borrowed from Europe, where cities hold regular events for citizens to help the development of self-organised housing projects,” added Mr O'Donnell, who is originally from Cork.

This is an open networking and information event where you can learn and share information about cohousing, hear from experts and existing groups, and get involved in a project yourself.

There will be talks from pioneering Irish cohousing groups, an exhibition of selected cohousing projects abroad, and representations from relevant organisations.”

The beauty of Saturday's event is you are free to dip in and out according to what aspects interest you.

“There will be talks from pioneering cohousing groups and other cooperative enterprises in Munster.

"There are workshops on how to organise, manage and finance projects and there is an exhibition of inspiring projects from around Europe. There is also plenty of time for informal discussion and networking,” added Mr O'Donnell.

The Spreefeld project in Berlin. Picture: Andrea Kroth.
The Spreefeld project in Berlin. Picture: Andrea Kroth.

“The Cafe is informal, informative and fun and people are welcome to come and go as they like. Workshops repeat so people have an opportunity to participate in the one ones they are most interested in.”

The cafes are important because they link stakeholders and provide networking and information, added Conor McManus of Cork City Co-Housing Initiative.

“They also help to formalise a grouping which is not presently recognised in the Irish housing market,” he said.

Eve Olney is part of the non-profit organisation Living Commons which is making progress in Cork. She will present details of this project at Saturday's cafe.

“The Living Commons is an inclusive communal living model that works with existing local neighbourhoods in incorporating the idea of creating a strong sustainable supportive community whilst simultaneously building and providing the infrastructures and services to support the living and working environment for that community,” Ms Olney told the Irish Examiner.

It will be presented as a feasible model of affordable, equal and ecologically sustainable living in Ireland.

Ms Olney is also co-producing an exhibition Spare Room (funded by the Irish Arts Council).

This is a two-week exhibition that inhabits a disused building in Cork City Centre, the former TSB bank on North Main Street. Its official opening takes place at 6pm on Saturday.

“Its theme is framed within the rationale of critiquing institutional complicity within different forms of precarious living conditions,” said Ms Olney.

See www.soa.ie and https://www.spareroomproject.ie/living-commons.

The La Borda project in Barcelona. Picture: SOA Research.
The La Borda project in Barcelona. Picture: SOA Research.

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