This is a guest post by Biddy Livesey who is a housing policy analyst, researcher, and future resident of Cohaus.

Post Two – Collective Housing Development in Auckland: Cohaus 


In the last post, we discussed the concept of cohousing, and the potential contribution of collective housing development to increasing affordable, high-quality and unique housing in cities such as Auckland. This post describes ‘Cohaus’: a proposed cohousing development currently being considered for resource consent, our consultative design process, and our vision for a development that reflects the households in our collective. 

What is Cohaus? 

Cohaus is a collective of households working together to design and build a cohousing development at 11 Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn. Every household in our collective has lived in Grey Lynn or other inner suburbs of Auckland. For some households, Cohaus is an opportunity to buy our first home. For other households, Cohaus provides an option to buy a smaller home close to friends and family. We all share a common value of community. Our proposed development comprises two two-storey buildings and one three-storey building, arranged around a shared courtyard which faces north to catch the sun. We are in the process of buying the land, and plan to build 19 apartments on the 2400m2 site. 

Location of 11 Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn, Auckland between Browning Street and Firth Road.  

What will Cohaus look like? 

When you walk into Cohaus from Surrey Crescent, you will find yourself in the central courtyard. This large courtyard will be the focus of the community, and will offer space for gardening, a shelter for eating or working outside (102m2), and an area for barbequing. To your right, you will see shared space for storage, a common laundry, and bike parking. Beyond that, facing onto Firth Street, there will be carparks and space for two shared cars. On the ground floor to your left, with windows to both Surrey Crescent and the courtyard, we plan to create a community room which will be open for residents to use for gatherings and events. 

Site plan and ground floor layouts of the cohousing proposal within two buildings. The Surrey Crescent building on the southern boundary is punctured by two ground level walk-through entrances. The courtyard building on the eastern boundary completes the enclosure of the north-facing shared courtyard. The existing villa will be relocated to the north western corner of the site, fronting onto Browning Street. 

Invited into one of the resident’s homes, you will enter a well-laid out apartment. Every apartment has windows on at least two aspects, to ensure rooms have lots of light and air. Most apartments will contain one or two bedrooms, and a total inside living area of 55m2 or 70m2 respectively. We have also included five three-bedroom apartments, and a five-bedroom apartment to provide for a larger family. In each apartment, quiet living areas face onto the shared courtyard. Every household also has access to their own balcony or patio. 

How have we worked together to design Cohaus? 

Our consultative design process began in July 2017, when we first got together as a group of future residents. Over a series of meetings, we developed a vision for the development, and a long list of things that we would like to see in our cohousing: a space for friends and family, gardens, a place to fix bikes, a tree to climb and many other things. The collective decided on a common design goal: To produce fantastic internal environments for all units, and a soulful outdoor space which will foster community.


There are difficult decisions to be made in consultative design, such as who will get which apartment, and why. Households were asked to think about the size of the home they currently live in, and then to consider what size apartment they would like to purchase. We made a decision early on to resist from allocating units to future residents until the design is nearly complete. We agreed to work collectively to ensure that each apartment is as high-quality as possible.

Because of our consultative design process, the design included in resource consent application submitted earlier this year reflects the many identities of our group. There’s a choice of apartments facing Surrey Crescent, for those who like to look out to see the busy life of the street, and apartments facing Firth Street for those who wish to live more quietly. In smaller apartments, we’ve chosen to use the space which is often used by developers for second bathrooms, as additional space in rooms for living and sleeping. We’ve designed ground floor apartments for the older members of our group, and built in specific storage by the front door in apartments for families to store pushchairs, scooters and skateboards. There’s a spare apartment for friends and family to stay when they come to Auckland.

Architectural rendering of the proposed Surrey Crescent building as viewed from the south.  The proposed Courtyard building is to the right. 

Lots of our future residents use bicycles as our everyday way of getting around. We’ve prioritised space for bicycles, and provided a secure indoor storage area for bicycles, bicycle trailers and other bicycle equipment. We’ve clustered parking for cars at the periphery of the development to enhance the safety for children, minimise traffic noise within the development, and encourage residents to interact with one other. Concentrating carparks in one area also results in a substantial reduction of paved areas and associated costs (Kake, 2015). At least two of the car parks will be for shared cars which will be owned collectively by the Cohaus community. Shared car ownership will reduce the need for each household to own their own car. 


We want the development to feel welcoming to our neighbours, friends and family, so we’ve designed several entrances which lead visitors directly to the common spaces, and which offer passersby a view into our shared garden.


These seem like simple choices, but these decisions have been made by our collective, with our cohousing community in mind. This is our vision for Cohaus, and we are working hard to make this vision into reality. 

In the next post, we will consider planning issues related to collective housing development in the inner suburbs of Auckland. 

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  1. Nice to see some brick on the road frontage to visually break the facade and define each set of apartments.

      1. Yes Patrick, it does my heart good to see a little variation from boring old concrete and a little visual warmth in all this cold weather.

  2. Sounds really interesting, and the designs look great. What are you going to use the relocated villa for? Apartments as well, or something else?

  3. So is it effectively apartments with a shared outdoor living area? Is each apartment privately owned and sellable?

    1. That’s right, owners will have unit title like in a normal apartment setup. The common areas will be stairs lobbies and storage, but also common room, courtyard, guest room, courtyard.

  4. I think the architectural design is going to really enhance the area. This will tie nicely together the larger modern multistorey buildings and the smaller older houses.

    The importance of the street trees is really shown in that aerial view, isn’t it? So few big trees on private property.

  5. Looks nice. I like the enclosed courtyard – reminds me of the style of many of the multi story residential buildings you see in places like Geneva and Munich. Also the overall density (around 80 households per hectare) is similar. the range of household sizes is good too. the easiest way to get a mono-culture is to have all one bedroom student apartments or all three bedroom family apartments. This style of development would be perfect for some of the land along the proposed LRT line (which they also have lots of in those German and Swiss cities).

  6. Great to see this project happening, there are so many well tested precedents in urban design and architecture being applied here, there will be great lessons for the council in this as well.

    1. Looking forward to the next post, which might lay out some reasons why groups wouldn’t be stepping forward! Demand is certainly there; when we hosted some of the Cohaus designers at our community group meeting; the topic attracted members who hadn’t come in a decade. Some people were genuinely interested in joining, only to find there was a waiting list.

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