Cohaus on Sust: a story of community-led development

Matt Fordham
January 24, 2020

Today we’re launching Sust’s profile of Cohaus, an innovative housing development currently under construction in the Auckland city-fringe suburb of Grey Lynn.

The main thing that sets Cohaus apart is its alternative approach to property development, led and funded by the group of people who will ultimately live there. In doing so, they’ve taken the developer (and margin) out of the equation - and are also designing the buildings and spaces to make sure they meet their individual and collective needs.

Cohaus has taken the developer (and margin) out of the equation - and the group are designing the buildings and spaces to meet their individual and collective needs.

The projects featured on Sust all break new ground, and we’ve seen in every instance that this requires passion and perseverance by people behind the scenes committed to making them happen. In the case of Cohaus, this group of people is pretty big. Future residents have committed time, money and effort to get it to this point - led by architects Thom Gill and Helle Westergaard, and their friends David Welch and Georgianne Griffiths. We had the privilege of attending the Cohaus project celebration late last year, and the vibe amongst the group felt communal even at that stage - a long time before the place will be ready to move in to.

I first met Thom in May 2017, when he attended a workshop I was facilitating on creating communication strategies for exemplar buildings. Thom’s corner of the room workshopped his Cohaus project, and it's been interesting to reflect on the output from that workshop today. The key themes around community-living that were to be embedded in Cohaus have held true over the years, and the challenges Thom articulated for any co-housing project - the need for leadership, clear communication, and commitment of time - are some we’ve seen the team tackle and overcome in the years since.

Cohaus campaign canvas, workshop May 2017.

We’re thrilled to feature Cohaus on Sust. This project - and the team behind it - are challenging the status quo and in doing so could inspire many other people to think differently about home ownership and community. We’re looking forward to helping them share their story and lessons learned as they realise their project vision, and aim to provide a roadmap for others to follow in their footsteps. We hope to be releasing the first Cohaus articles early 2020. If you'd like to be notified when they're released, subscribe to our newsletter here. In the meantime, read our overview of the Cohaus project.

Thom Gill onsite at the Cohaus site. Photo: Prue Fea.