Silhouettes of people jumping with their hands in the air. Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

We regret Cambridge Cohousing has ceased to operate and the Society will be dissolved. This website and resources will remain public until June 2023 to share information.

News and events

Cambridge Cohousing Society to dissolve

11 July 2022

Members of the Cambridge Cohousing Society agreed to dissolve the 3-year-old group at their AGM on July 1. The decision comes after a report found that the community-led project to build sustainable, affordable homes in the town was not feasible in the current financial and regulatory environment.

The report, commissioned by the group with funding from a WEL Energy Trust grant and completed by The Urban Advisory, found that “Given the aspiration to keep costs significantly below market, undertaking a cohousing project in the current environment will be challenging”.

The most significant barriers to progressing with such a development are difficulty securing land, and a lack of access to capital. The latter is hampered by a not-for-profit development model – selling the homes at or near cost to make them affordable represents no benefit to potential investors, and is viewed with suspicion by traditional lenders.

In late 2021 the group suffered a significant setback at the hands of a Council planning decision. Following independent commissioners’ denial of an initial consent application, Waipā District Council announced it was approving the consent sought by 3MS, which forced the relocation of a north-south Collector Road and its parallel Open Channel Green Space. These were moved from their intended location onto neighbouring small land-holdings further West, for the sole benefit of 3MS.

This decision rode roughshod over the extensively consulted and signed-off Structure Plan, and meant a block of land over which the Society had a memorandum of understanding was no longer available for the project. Subsequent attempts to identify and secure suitable land have proven fruitless.

The group is disappointed that, with the effects of climate change so clearly upon us, and in the middle of a housing crisis which breaches human rights, there is not more support for sustainable, affordable housing. The message is clear: If you have deep pockets and want to profit by building expensive suburban sprawl for the well-off, Waipā District Council welcomes you. If you are a community group proposing warm, safe, dry and neighbourly housing, at an affordable price, good luck.

Feasibility study completed

21 June 2022

The group has been organising toward creating a cohousing community in Cambridge for several years. We are seeking to create a positive response to the unaffordability of the housing market, neighbourhood isolation and loneliness in Cambridge. To further progress this work, a feasibility study has been commissioned to support next steps.

The work was undertaken by The Urban Advisory (TUA) with a generous grant from WEL Energy Trust Vital Impact. The report aims to give a high level insight into the progress that has been made to advancing a cohousing project in Cambridge, planning considerations, the feasibility of development, delivery pathways and risk allocation.

A high level comparison between rural and urban delivery options, concluded that Brownfield development in the existing urban area zoned Residential would be the easiest pathway to progress a cohousing development.

The results of this exercise demonstrate that the overall cost of undertaking the development in an urban setting is slightly less than developing in a greenfield environment, and that there are fewer barriers to developing in an urban setting.

The other key finding is that the unique requirements of cohousing, such as shared common areas, can increase the cost of building, in comparison to market housing. This tradeoff between short term cost and the long term amenity benefits of these spaces need to be agreed by the group to progress.

Regardless of the location and typology of building TUA concluded that undertaking cohousing projects in the current environment will be challenging, given the aspiration to keep costs significantly below market. There are limited project finance options for a project of this nature, unless you are able to pool the residents’ equity, and access private capital. To progress the project, it is likely that the group would need to equally commit to the risk, or opt for a lead family model, which sees some households taking on more responsibility and risk, and committing substantial equity early in the process.

The full report is available.

Disappointing land loss

15 Oct 2021

We won the battle, but lost the war.

Cambridge Cohousing is no longer working with a landowner to develop their site for our community. Both parties are very disappointed by this result. The option became unworkable given the intentions of the neighbouring developer.

Our community is still on the look out for 7000m2 to 1ha of residential land. Please get in touch if you have any leads.

Read more in the Waikato Times: Environment court appeal sinks plan for 30 home cohousing project

Relief and excitement at RMA hearing outcome

6 July 2021

The decision to uphold the vision of the Waipa District Council Structure Plan and deny a neighbouring subdivision consent application means we can progress our community's vision. The subdivision is located on land adjacent to a site we hope to acquire for cohousing.

A developer is subdividing neighbouring properties for a major expansion project and variations from the original plan proposed to move a road and stormwater infrastructure onto the cohousing project land. Independent commissioners reviewed the application and have denied consent.

All parties to this process have invested huge amounts of time, energy and resources to get to this point. While the process is not yet complete, and there is the possibility for an appeal, the decision is a huge positive for us and really raises our hopes of moving the project forward.

Many families’ homes, present and future, are in the balance pending the completion of this process. Hopefully, this can come to a close and we can all move on with our plans to create new neighbourhoods and communities in Cambridge.

Read more in the Waikato Times, Cohousing dream back from the dead as 260-lot subdivision plan rejected.

Vital Impact recognised with grant

1 July 2021

We've been chosen as one of only six throughout the Waikato to share the $500,000 WEL Energy Trust Vital Impact grant, targeted at supporting initiatives that address the affordability, availability and quality of housing.

WEL Energy Trust Grants Manager David Cowley said the aim is to promote innovative thinking and collaborative action to enhance access to affordable, quality housing, including social housing and rental accommodation.

Mr Cowley said the Cambridge project was chosen because it will be a model of sustainable home ownership, providing affordable housing and creating a living, connected community which utilises the land and environment better.

“An important factor in the decision to make this grant was the fact that the Cambridge project members are committed to share their experience freely, to form a repeatable and scalable model for similar groups within the Waikato region,” Mr Cowley said.

Our $15,000 grant will help us conduct a detailed feasibility study to provide an initial project budget and road map, identify further funding sources and partners, commence broad-scale design work, and ensure any site chosen is suitable for the planned cohousing development. This will involve working with the Waikato Regional Housing Initiative, financial, legal and tax advisers, council planners, project managers, engineers, designers and other consultants. 

We presented at the Coho Hui

22 June 2021

We presented at the Coho Hui along with a number of other collective housing projects in Aotearoa. We were asked to use a specific presentation format and include our biggest success, biggest challenge, what we wish we'd known and key advice for other projects. It was an interesting process to reflect on these. 

  • Our biggest success was easy – we have a wonderful, cohesive, and committed community. We would never have got this far otherwise.
  • What we wished we’d known, is how collective housing, community-driven models and non-profit motives are viewed as very “alternative” by the housing industry and councils.
  • Challenges (many) and advice for others (lots). Just do it. Collective housing initiatives are rewarding and beneficial on many levels.

The Hui had a real range of participants including government and council representatives. It was fascinating to hear from other projects, including Cohaus and 26 Aroha. Thanks to The Housing Innovation Society for organising it.

It’s a hard road

June 2021

The Waikato Times has covered the challenges we’re facing acquiring land for our community.

Six months ago we’d started negotiations with a sympathetic land owner with values similar to ours, to create something special that would include cohousing within their site. We were basing this on the current Waipa District Council structure plan which included water and roading infrastructure on the neighbouring land.

The developer of that land then filed an RMA application for consent to subdivide that moves this off to an unspecified location. Guess where!

Developer next door puts cooperative housing dream in limbo 

We’ll be at Pechakucha Cambridge this month

March 2021

Co-convenor Brad White will be speaking at Pechakucha – Cambridge Autumn Festival later this month. Come along and hear him talk about cohousing and our project.

Bridges Church, Cambridge, Tuesday 23 March 2021, 7.30pm

To the property owners

October 2020

We recently did a letter drop to mailboxes. The letter explains that we are part of a community group looking to buy land to build a cohousing community in the Cambridge area. That we’d be very interested in talking to the land owners about their land, if they had any desire to sell. 

Ideally, we would like to purchase land privately as we feel it would benefit both parties. We are looking for around 1-1.5ha and are open to more or less as well as an existing home or other buildings on the property. 

If you may know of land please do get in touch.

Getting our brief together

June 2020

Earlier this year we wrote a land search brief. Setting out our criteria for the land on which to build our cohousing community. 

The group is now in the process of developing a design brief for our future community. We invited Ian Mayes back to lead a further discussion on the technical elements of Building Better. Specifically, building performance in relation to passive solar design, orientation, size and shape, insulation, thermal mass, air tightness and ventilation and shading.

There was lots to learn in this engaging and informative session. We're feeling more prepared to make educated decisions. Thanks again Ian!

Whiteboard notes on discussion of building principles for passive thermal performance

An information-packed session!

Let's talk about what matters

December 2019

Samantha Rose of Earth Matters radio, is a passionate advocate for a healthy earth and a thriving society. She interviewed Brad White about the Cambridge Cohousing Community Project. The conversation revolves around what we as a community value. Listen to the recorded interview on free-FM radio (28 mins).

Inspired to build better

November 2019

We were very lucky to have Ian Mayes speak to the group on Building Better. Ian has extensive experience in the building construction and design industry and recently held the role of Eco Design Advisor at Hamilton City Council. 

The focus of his talk was our responsibility as potential builders. How we could lessen the impact of construction on the environment and how we could build warm and dry homes that sustained future generations.

The concepts were (relatively) simple and really inspiring. Thanks Ian!

Ian Mayes presents to cohousing group

Ian Mayes presenting to our cohousing group in Cambridge.

It's a WRAP in Raglan

November 2019

We were privileged to be included in a panel discussion on community co-creation organised by Whaingaroa Raglan Affordable Housing Project (WRAP). The programme was excellent and featured five panels of local voices and experts in alternative, affordable housing ideas and solutions.

One of the participants shared a great quote from Danish architect Jan Gehl, “First life, then spaces, then buildings. The other way around never works.” This really resonates with our cohousing journey. There was also a lot of awareness of the benefits of cohousing in the discussion threads. It will be interesting to follow the conversations developing out of WRAP.

We’re at the Architecture Festival

September 2019

They say that it takes a village to raise a child – two children in Brad White’s case. In this increasingly disconnected world, Brad is passionate about creating an intentional connected community in Cambridge.

Brad discussed cohousing communities at the Pecha Kucha Festival of Architecture in Hamilton on Friday, 27 September.

It’s essential that cohousing communities are built from a strong social foundation, even before physical building foundations are laid. The Cambridge Cohousing group are building those foundations through processes of collaborative decision making, shared values, kindness, empathy and compassion.

Brad White speaking at the Pecha Kucha Festival of Architecture. Photo by Crimson Flair.

Brad White presenting at the Festival of Architecture in Hamilton.

Together we are one

September 2019

We've reached our first milestone. It’s official, we are now members of our own incorporated society.

This enables us, as a group of individuals, to operate as a single legal entity. It is a common structure used by community groups and sports clubs. 

Among other things, an incorporated society can buy property and sign contracts in its own name.

It sounds dull, but it means we now have a viable way of initiating the project and engaging with partners in planning the next stages. Bring it on!

Thanks for visiting

September 2019

We held an information session for friends and family to introduce the idea of cohousing and what we're proposing for Cambridge. 

Thanks to all that came for your enthusiasm and questions.