This page hosts the musings of a dream to create a semi-rural, ecological hub in Brisbane where people can live, work and play.
1st June 2015. A discussion with friends leads me to believe that there may be a common thread among people in my social circle to come together around the making of an urban ecoblock like Christie Walk in Adelaide. They include some baby boomers with disposable income, progressive outlooks, an interest in social living arrangements, and a desire to make a difference where it matters and retain access to city facilities. Another a set of younger friends are connected to the Zeitgeist Movement and have the same interests, but fewer assets (& hence greater dependence on income-generating employment). They also want to form a city community based on science and sustainability. These people are culturally, racially and sexually diverse.
3rd July, 2017. I upload a page about the geographical features and facilities of Nyleta Street. This comes from a growing awareness of what’s already here. I also uploaded a post about adjoining properties and ask a neighbour to make up a spreadsheet plan that a small group can use to see what it would take for them to buy and live or rent in one of them. The plan allows them to alter variables such as purchase price, subdivision, rental expenses (if any), interest payments (if any) and number of participants.
15th July, 2017. I discover The Henry Project and some very similar urban co-housing projects, both long-established (Pinakarri Cohousing Community) and conceptual. These definitely require some reading time! Thanks to Lesley Gillet of Narara EcoVillage, for passing on the info!
6th August, 2017. Now I waver between finding a community and starting one. There are many communities along the east coast of Australia to consider (see a list here). Starting a community or co-housing project is a huge undertaking. I may spearhead a drive in Brisbane and see what comes of it.
26th of August, 2017. Spent about 3 hours looking at properties in Mullumbimby – a small town in NSW with a number of 1 hectare acre blocks close to town with potential. The Henry Project offers services to ensure the feasibility of a proposal.
25th August, 2017. Visiting Hobart’s Cohousing Cooperative and neighbouring Cascade Cohousing projects, I see the value and possibilities (as well as dangers of the plug being pulled and the time involved) in government funding. Cascade is private, Co-op is mostly government and renters. One has a greater sense of property (and less cohesion, but that may be unrelated). Another thought occurs to me about pets. Most communities disallow pets, usually to protect wildlife. If pets provide touch, affection and company, my Faerieland experience suggests to me that for those for whom touch is a language of love, hand-holding and neck massages or more is a solution I haven’t seen widely experimented with. Found another place in Melbourne I might stay at called Murundaka. Earlier this month I learnt about the Walter Segal self-build homes in Brighton, U.K., called Hogs Edge… these seem simple, modular inside so flexible for changing relationships and publicly funded.
19th November, 2017. Found a go-to portal for intentional/sustainable cohousing and communities website portal listing many projects around Australia called Cooperative Living. Another portal that I’ve been contributing to is a Zeitgeist Movement inspired project called RBE10K which has a list of Sister Projects. Also today at a BrisLETS Trading and Services Salon Day I discovered an old acquaintance interested in a very familiar with cohousing; Michael Cahill.
28th March, 2018. Michael and Jeni Lewington and I visited a property for sale in Goodna, Brisbane Tce; former Goodna Produce barn, 3,500m2, $600K, excellent transport. It gives inspiration for a community hub in the southern suburbs. I found Russell Austenberry’s Brisbane Ecodigs work online, which is a potential resource. Brisbane North EcoVillage BNEV (later Eco Villages Australia) claim to have found a property in the Gold Coast hinterland.
18th January, 2019. It’s been a while. But much has happened. After a lot of consideration, the idea of selling up and moving to Lismore to start again from scratch has lost its shine. The attractions were the faerie community and being in a provincial city instead of a metropolis. What’s changed? I’m not sure, but after 8 years in Coopers Plains trying to get people who are interested in sharing not just a house, but a garden as well, I have found most people more interested in being together than gardening. There is room on the block for extra accommodation – in fact two self-contained bedsits (no kitchen or deck) – with enough garden left over. Result: More people to cultivate the garden more intensively. I have become acquainted with EcoVillages Australia (Andrew and Claire) and our aspirations appear to align, so I will thoroughly study their model for property sharing, perhaps better described as space-sharing.
30th January, 2019. EcoVillages Australia says, Conflict is part of life. It is inevitable and helps us learn. We shouldn’t be afraid of conflict but rather we should work together to find a resolution so that we can meet our needs while allowing the needs of those around us to also be met. This week at Equanimity Foundation, we met to discuss a list of issues that had been besetting us. We got through it together. We started by agreeing to non-violent communication. I briefly described TED, The Empowerment Dynamic (Challenger, Coach & Creator) and it’s counterpart, the Dreaded Drama Triangle (Persecutor, Rescuer & Victim). One of my newer housemates who is training in counseling helped us by ending with the Solution Dreaming, where we describe waking up in the morning and the issue at hand is resolved in an ideal way. It was a learning experience and it forged some precedents for the future. I added decisions to the Welcome and Farewell document, stating, When making a decision that affects others, even in ways you may think are insignificant, consult them. If necessary, call a meeting and discuss the matter. Decisions are made when a 75% or more majority is reached. However, I retain the right to veto important decisions. We also agreed to separate rental payments and wages. Now rent is paid in advance and wages in arrears. This clarifies that employment is not a given. In future, newcomers will not be guaranteed employment. They will be invited to join the weekly gardening bee and allowed to harvest produce of comparable worth. If the working relationship proves worthwhile for both sides, it will be extended into regular employment.
3rd July, 2019. On the 25th of March 2019, Eco Villages Australia purchased the first eco village site in Maleny, a lovely town with a green heart on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. I was there at the auction and filmed it for the Facebook page. It was an exciting day with much celebration and congratulations by those who had been involved in earlier attempts to form a village. It’s a great site and when they are ready (after building) I can look forward to possibly living there. We are in discussions about the possibility of Equanimity coming under the EVA banner. It has been pointed out to me (by a friendly reader) that Equanimity doesn’t fit the internationally recognized definition of Cohousing. It seems Eco Share-housing would be a better expression, given it’s small size. I have thus editted the entries in this blog. I envisage this property being potentially viable as a place people can reside for a reasonably long period of time if three bed-sitting rooms with their own bathrooms are configured that are approximately equivalent in floor space and amenity, and rented at the same or similar prices. This would entail some investment to expand the bungalow to double the size, creating an ensuite and bedroom with loft. A storage shed 2/3rds the size of the current storage space would be retained for garden equipment and shared storage space. These 3 rooms would be available for a year at a time, where tenants move either within the residence, or outside it, to prevent territoriality and a sense of possession over particular space.
25th August, 2019. The roof, walls and paths were due for a clean, so a pressure-cleaning crew are hired. The decks needed a lick of paint and in a week the place is looking like new again. Coincidently, I’ve arranged a photo shoot of the house with Garth Chapman Traditional Queenslanders to promote the narrow block design in their promotional material, I have taken the opportunity to use the photos to put the property on the real estate market. My 3 tenants have moved out and downstairs is now on AirBnB & MisterBnB. With interest from buyers and renters, a transition to Maleny looks more likely. There are great possibilities for living sustainably at Equanimity; for a family, a couple or a single person. The bungalow could be extended to create a self-contained ‘granny flat’. The income potential is good, which, combined with the semi-off-grid power, water and food facilities, offers independent living (if you don’t have a mortgage). Although it’s possible to co-own the property, the family-style configeration of room layout doesn’t lend itself well to an equitable arrangement easily. Were I to start from scratch again, I’d align the axis of the house east-west for better passive thermal heating, ventilated cooling and light control, still allowing a driveway down one side for potential battleaxe subdivision. I’d put 4 equally-sized bedrooms upstairs, each with their own ensuite. Downstairs would be all the shared areas; living room, dining room, kitchen, media room, guest room, laundry, storage shed. Sleep upstairs, live downstairs; better noise control and less step-climbing.
23rd March, 2020 – COVID19 Lock down begins. Feeling unruffled by the changes going on outside, I continue working at home, hosting boarders, producing food, working on community projects online. I continue supporting Maleny Eco Village, going there every 2-3 weeks. My mind is more settled on selling this property to a sustainable-minded family and building from scratch again with 3-6 other people, in Brisbane. The main goal being to replicate what I’ve done here but with a design that equitably shares facilities and ownership, as described in the previous entry (above). With 4 double bedrooms (& en suites) upstairs it would house 4-8 people. It’d be great to find a block with access to running water in a drought.
Brisbane Eco Neighbourhood
BEN is a concept. Imagine living in a cul-de-sac of quaint houses, some small, some large. There’s a cafe, no fences, a shared shed of tools, some shared laundries, a shared vehicle or two and a community orchard and garden. People take care of their immediate area and help each other out as and when they can. The properties are owned by the Eco Villages Australia Trust and everyone rents, but the Neighbourhood makes collective decisions. Alternatively, the neighbourhood could be more like the Ragland style Crestwood Estate in Thornlands suburb of Perth.
20th, November, 2020. Toowoomba bound? I am looking at this regional city and its merits as a location for a co-owned sharehouse. A significant advantage is that property prices are lower than Brisbane. Like Maleny, it is a higher altitude and thus cooler at night, which I understand allows for a wider range of food plants than sub-tropical Brisbane. Curb Your Enthusiasm (for improving the community)? I recently learned more about the local Coopers Plains shops on Orange Grove Road and why they are so unattractive; the landlord is unpopular with the tenants because he is so focussed on profit. His plans for development are excessive and would compound traffic flow issues. Yet again, efforts to improve the amenity of the shops are stymied by the culture of rewarding greed. Ironically, profits would improve with a modest investment in amenity.
2nd March, 2021. A friend I’ve known for 13 years goes into hospital and a circle of us (mostly gay men my age) roster to assist in his rehabilitation at home after the operation. It brings 5-6 of us who live in 3 or 4 adjoining suburbs closer together. A little talk of selling and building together ensues. I take a second look at 33 Assembly St., Salisbury (an old Gold Coast Textile factory) and contact some ‘careholders’ at FoodConnect who are interested in cohousing and have some money. Am put in touch with Kel. Let’s see where it goes.
25th, March, 2021. Five residents from Salisbury, Rocklea and Coopers Plains meet to discuss a cohousing project at my place. The mood is positive and we promise to draw up some parameters and meet in a fortnight to talk again.
26th, May, 2021. After four meetings, the group goes into hyatus. We have our meetings noted, prospective properties and a ‘think piece’ recorded online for future reference. I am particularly interested in the possibilities of a large 1 hectare property on Cambridge St., Rocklea bordering a tributary to Oxley Creek and largely flood prone.
2nd, June, 2021. March was a seachange, which I failed to note, so here it is. After 6 months of a full house, sharing with 4 others (3 men, 1 woman) I reached a breaking point. The dynamics set up by the property design and ownership, in concert with the expectations of most of the tenants, proved unworkable. I called some together and announced this and found one was already planning to leave, seeking more personal space. I felt unappreciated by the other 3 and had to ask 2 of them to leave, who subsequently became belligerent. Once alone, I resolved to live alone upstairs and rent the ground floor separately with an offer of two raised garden beds. I had also begun offering garden beds for rent. I have realized inviting tenants to be involved in an established garden was too complicated. After 10 years, I was living in the house as its design intended; upstairs/downstairs. Meanwhile, today I finally found the owner of Cambridge Street, Rocklea and sent an email inquiry; to Cerno.
3rd July, 2021. Cerno responded positively and my Rocklea neighbours did a walking tour of the Cambridge Street properties, feeling very positive. The zoning is industrial, a major obstacle for a residential project. Next step is Town Planning advice.
6th August, 2021. In a teleconference with my neighbours, Cerno informed us they had a DA (development application) prepared and their thinking was it was ridiculous to build residential in a flood zone. They seem interested in our involvement as gardeners on the lowest-lying land. Potential for a local community garden. A far cry from the live/work/play eco hub we had in mind. We even had a name for it – Rockwater Hub. Outcomes: Inform residents locally of developments and continue to engage with Cerno: Build an organisation that is ready and able to purchase property. I got a call from a Brisfaerie keen to become involved. We need to bring all these people together – Kel and I plan to put a presentation together and hold a session at FoodConnect.
17th August, 2021. I got another inquiry from someone who found me by searching ‘cohousing’ in Brisbane. As world news unfolds, I experience varying degrees of urgency about the future. Many people have blinkers on. Lewis Dartnell’s book The Knowledge – a guide to rebooting civilization after collapse – is very instructive and unequivocal about the long-term effects of run-away climate change. I am inclined now to keep my home here until it becomes unlivable and in the meantime seek connections with friends who want to secure a back up plan/property… and for me that is ideally, probably, in the Mt Tamborine area, in a town, with a water source. When city life becomes untenable, I’ll abandon it.