Stellulata Co-Housing

Exploring a new way to address the ‘missing middle’ of the ACT housing market

It began when a small group of recently retired friends wanted a sustainable place to live that would be suitable as they grew older, while still residing in their current neighbourhood of Ainslie. Thus, Stellulata was born.

The group designed the co-housing development to look like one house from the street, but it will actually consist of three adjoined dwellings with a shared building. The two-storey shared building will include a kitchen, living room and guest bedroom. The development will also include a shared garden space and two shared electric vehicles. This shared outdoor area will allow residents to enjoy a garden without having sole responsibility for its ongoing maintenance. Similarly, sharing the electric vehicles will allow the costs of these to be split across the residents, who also plan to walk and ride their bicycles as much as possible for transport.

The build will focus on sustainability, featuring solar panels with battery storage, efficient electric appliances for hot water, heating and lighting, and rainwater collection. The ACT Government has selected the design proposal to be a Demonstration Housing Project. This allows for the exploration of new types of housing to address the ‘missing middle’ of the ACT and Australian housing market. It promotes innovative development proposals which showcase different types of housing which might not be possible in the current planning system, and which are uncommon or not available in Canberra.

Through a Territory Plan Variation, co-housing is now formally defined in the Territory Plan as a type of housing in the ACT. This is the first demonstration housing project to progress through the Territory Plan Variation process, which paves the way for Stellulata to deliver its proposal. While the process for gaining development approval was started in 2018, the official documentation was not signed off until April 2022. The next step for the group is to employ a builder to finalise approvals and start construction.

One of the group’s members, Ian Ross, said the co-housing concept faces planning hurdles everywhere because bureaucracy does not recognise this kind of design, in the same way banks and financial institutions struggle with the concept.

He acknowledged that the group is in a privileged position to be able to acquire property in the ACT’s inner north in a rising market, but said the concept is still valid for people struggling to afford a home on their own who want to minimise their costs.

Architect Brett Lowe explaining the Stellulata model. Source: Stellulata

Jillian Reid, another of the members, said “I would absolutely expect that this should become more common, but this is not the only answer. It should play a role in ‘how do we solve the density?’ question, and do it in such a way that has a sustainability focus, that has a community focus, that actually maintains all the good things that we have now in the suburbs.”

Once construction of the Stellulata project has been finalised, open homes will be offered for five years to allow the Canberra community to see how it has all been achieved and how it works in practice.

If successful, this type of co-housing development may be considered in other suburbs across Canberra.


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