People at the heart of housing model

HOW would you feel about sharing a dining room with your neighbours?

Would you be keen to have a communal veggie garden or laundry?

Or do you want to have more say in the design of your dream home?

A Highgate woman wants to create not-for-profit housing in Perth that’s co-designed by its residents and is community-orientated and environmentally friendly.

“I’ve developed an obsession with urban planning and related issues, and an unshakeable frustration with the status quo with housing choices,” says Deb Karajas.

She notes that developments are usually based on what’s sold well.

• The first Nightingale project in Brunswick – residents helped design it themselves.

“Whether it’s houses in the outer suburbs or apartments in the inner city, it’s all pretty soulless and not really designed with the people living there in mind,” she says.

Ms Karajas was inspired by sustainable community housing projects like Green Fabric, which has built two award-winning developments in Lathlain, and Melbourne’s Nightingale Housing, which focuses on affordability, sustainability and deliberative design.

Nightingale has already built an apartment building in Brunswick, and plans to build another four in Melbourne, and one in Fremantle, with a planning permit issued early this year.

“These housing developments can be full on community housing, where residents have private dwellings but a heap of shared spaces like a veggie garden, a tool shed, a work shop and a communal dining area, or it could be more of a normal apartment that simply gives people a say in the design of their home,” explains Ms Karajas.

She says Nightingale uses a hybrid model with third-party funding, but because all the apartments must be sold in advance the risk is low.

Drawing on these ideas, Ms Karajas formed Housing for People and is keeping an eye on empty pockets of land in North Perth.

“I am convinced that humans need community and when we are disconnected from one another things don’t go well either at an individual or collective level,” she says.

“The built environment can help that or hinder that, so I want it to be easier to share meals and look after each other’s kids and have that connection of life in all stages and ages together,” says the mother of three.

She’s created a survey to test the waters and says the results show two groups – one keen on communal living and others who are drawn to the idea because it is low cost and environmentally friendly.

• A concept design for a co-housing project in New Zealand.


“A significant number of people have said they’re up for shared facilities,” she says.

“While this might be to save money or environmental resources, what it translates to is stronger relationships.”

Ms Karajas says she grew up on a “pretty standard quarter acre block in Bassendean”, and her family often had people boarding with them in the granny flat upstairs.

“Now we are renting a house from our parents and I am aware we have been enabled to have a stable, suitable house in an area where we otherwise certainly couldn’t afford to buy.

“Once you have kids and they’re in the local school, people want stability and stable housing and that often means families go further out to buy where there’s cheap land; but I think if there were other options they’d take them.”

For more info see or look her up on Facebook.


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