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Resilience in housing: challenges for sustainability and affordability. Dr Louise Crabtree Institute for Culture and Society University of Western Sydney. Roadmap. Resilience: new ecology and housing Social, ecological and economic aspects Examples Cohousing

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resilience in housing challenges for sustainability and affordability

Resilience in housing: challenges for sustainability and affordability

Dr Louise Crabtree

Institute for Culture and Society

University of Western Sydney

  • Resilience: new ecology and housing
    • Social, ecological and economic aspects
  • Examples
    • Cohousing
    • Pinakarri Cohousing Cooperative
    • Christie Walk, Adelaide
    • Community land trusts
  • Replicating innovation
  • Reflections
resilience new ecology and housing
Resilience: new ecology and housing

Basis of new ecology is an understanding of ecosystems as

“complex adaptive systems…in which properties and patterns at higher levels emerge from localized interactions and selection processes acting at lower scales and may feed back to influence the subsequent development of those interactions. They are characterized by nonlinear relations, threshold effects, historical dependency, multiple possible outcomes and, limited predictability”.

Olsson et al (2004: 76)

resilience new ecology and housing1
Resilience: new ecology and housing
  • resilience
    • capacity of a system for renewal, reorganisation and development in the wake of shock or surprise
    • requires diversity and redundancy: system will hopefully hold latent creative responses to possible stresses or shocks within a multitude of apparently redundant components and capacities, within and across scales
  • adaptive capacity
    • the ability of a system to draw on resources within and across scales to respond creatively to disturbance without loss of functionality
    • “the preconditions necessary to enable adaptation, including social and physical elements, and the ability to mobilize these elements” (Nelson, Adger & Brown 2007; p.397)
resilience new ecology and housing2
Resilience: new ecology and housing
  • adaptive comanagement
    • “deals with the unpredictable interactions between people and ecosystems as they evolve together” (Berkes, Folke & Colding 1998; p.10)
    • iterative, based on learning through feedback loops between ecological phenomena and sociocultural institutions, policies and practices
resilience new ecology and housing3
Resilience: new ecology and housing
  • Functional resilience in housing: means physical sustainability and sustainability of the implications of the built form
    • design, materials performance, occupancy and consumption patterns
  • Diversification and adaptability of form and function
    • universal design, flexible design, muse apartments, cohousing
resilience new ecology and housing4
Resilience: new ecology and housing

Housing governance and management:

“Adaptive comanagement relies on the collaboration of a diverse set of stakeholders operating at different levels, often in networks, from local users, to municipalities, to regional and national organizations, and also to international bodies”

Olsson et al (2004: 75-76).

resilience new ecology and housing5
Resilience: new ecology and housing

Housing governance and management:

  • particular factors have been documented as contributing to adaptive comanagement, including:

“vision, leadership, and trust; enabling legislation that creates social space for ecosystem management; funds for responding to environmental change and for remedial action; capacity for monitoring and responding to environmental feedback; information flow through social networks; the combination of various sources of information and knowledge; and sensemaking and arenas of collaborative learning for ecosystem management.” (Olsson et. al. 2004; p.75)

resilience new ecology and housing6
Resilience: new ecology and housing
  • physical design features are relatively easily accommodated, seeing uptake
  • appears harder to establish corresponding institutional mechanisms embodying diversity, contextualityand hopefully, adaptive capacity.
    • systems and processes of housing construction, tenure, financing, governance and accessibility manifesting resilience and locally appropriate responses to stress and change, such as the preservation of affordability
resilience new ecology and housing7
Resilience: new ecology and housing
  • Key issue: integration of physical and institutional design parameters in urban housing systems
  • How might this be framed or examined? Resilience suggests looking for
    • particular forms, e.g.., multiplicity of stakeholders and their engagement, effective communication channels; and,
    • particular traits or ethics, e.g.., trust, iterative learning, etc.
    • opens up terrain for examining decision making processes, tenure forms, participation in planning, development and management
resilience new ecology and housing8
Resilience: new ecology and housing
  • Key issue: integration of physical and institutional design parameters in urban housing systems
  • How can it be identified?
    • How is equity guaranteed? What is resilient may not necessarily be just.
    • Empowerment or offloading? Where is power in the system?
    • Potential pitfalls or things to watch out for?
    • “adaptive actions often reduce the vulnerability of those best placed to take advantage of governance institutions, rather than reduce the vulnerability of the marginalized.” Nelson et. al. (2007; p.410)
resilience new ecology and housing9
Resilience: new ecology and housing

Social aspects of resilience in housing:

  • Range of affordability options – possibly needs broadening; bottlenecks and housing stress
  • Universal design not widespread
  • Ability of housing to change over time; flexible design
  • Arguments around social mix often occur here, but the evidence is mixed
  • Governance appears crucial – not about particular forms of social engineering but creating appropriate avenues for multi-stakeholder decision making re planning, design
resilience new ecology and housing10
Resilience: new ecology and housing

Environmental aspects of resilience in housing:

  • in some ways easiest aspect
  • butvery piecemeal knowledge, regulation possibly lagging behind practice – contradictory advice
  • embedded energy, location – may override design benefits
  • complexity in design– diversity of uses, redundancy of design
  • overlaps with social especially re access, cost – upfront and ongoing
    • Differential impacts and incentives in rental and owner-occupied stock
    • Policy and pricing changes confuse the sector and residents
resilience new ecology and housing11
Resilience: new ecology and housing

Economic aspects of resilience in housing:

  • Often singular policy focus on economic independence
    • Realistic for low income housing? Creates pressure on providers to diversify, possibly sets public departments up to fail
  • Previous issue of upfront and ongoing costs
  • Extent and nature of subsidisation to all forms of tenure
  • Tension between profit seeking (household, developer, government) and shelter imperatives?
  • Role of tenure forms that can unpack property rights and balance these
examples cohousing
Examples – cohousing
  • design philosophy and practice aiming to balance compact individual housing units with access to shared facilities and spaces
  • usually several dozen households plus common house/area - shared spaces vary between projects
  • emerged in northern Europe in 1970s, USA through 80s and 90s, very slow uptake in Australia over 90s.
    • emergence and role of McCamant and Durrett
  • design initiated and driven by core resident group
Pinakarri Cohousing Community, Fremantle

cohousing cooperative combining public rental and private ownership built in collaboration with HomesWest

3000m2 site with 12 units and a common house

common house utilised for community dinners, public forums, film nights, meetings and celebrations

Examples – Pinakarri

onsite permaculture food production, composting, tool sharing, family day care, care for physically and mentally disabled resident, passive solar design of units.

community’s ethic of non-violent cooperation transformed local community resistance into trigger for community renewal

HomesWest deeply uncomfortable with power sharing

Examples – Pinakarri

the architect saw his role as providing a support function to Pinakarri –

“…[giving] advice on not only the physical framework on the housing side of it but on management stuff, on facilitation issues, on group dynamics, on politics, on economics…’’

…but this was greatly interfered with by HomesWest’s issues with power sharing

He referred to the housing provider

‘‘pulling the power back all the time…changing legal requirements, changing financing systems, changing relationships…’’

Examples – Pinakarri

Historically…we’ve had ownership of the funds and the whole process [and] we’ve had a very clear charter… but the notion of community housing is about partnership with state and with the community [and] that relationship is not necessarily easily learnt…So the notion of the community being empowered, that s been a difficult point…that’s probably the biggest lesson we’ve had to learn, the relationship with true partnership


Examples – Pinakarri

examples pinakarri
Examples – Pinakarri


Fremantle 1999

Car-free centre and pooled car parking. Common house close to perimeter of site.

housing at pinakarri
Housing at Pinakarri

Site constraints and access

private non-profit cooperative with individually owned units/houses

4 linked 3-storey townhouses, complex of 6 apartments and 2 3-storey townhouses, 2 freestanding cottages, complex of 13 apartments and common area

embody ecocity design and philosophy

Examples – Christie Walk, Adelaide

onsite permaculture food production, water sourcing, storage, treatment and reuse, solar passive design and active solar on rooftops, vegetation used as coolant

site housed architect, builder, developer and hub of international ecocity activist and educational network

desire to be independent from state compromised affordability outcomes; constantly encountering barriers

Examples – Christie Walk, Adelaide

The non-profit development structure, ethical investment base and community involvement enabled this experimental project to proceed and withstand delays and personal tragedies. It survived where a conventional development would probably have been abandoned or changed beyond recognition

AGO, 2001

Examples – Christie Walk, Adelaide

It just means we’ve gotta work twice as hard [and] you get more to do than you thought there would be. And that really then begins to strain what is fundamentally a community-based group and you find yourself where people [are] being asked to operate outside their comfort zone and at the same time to maintain the forward movement and get more things to happen…And so it puts an additional stress on the core of people getting things moving…

Examples – Christie Walk, Adelaide

Why isn’t this normal? I feel now I kind of understand why? It’s you can do it once and you can sort of slip through the gaps…[but] you can t just slip through the gaps again, you’ve gotta confront the whole apparatus…you’ve gotta deal with all the issues all over again…

Examples – Christie Walk, Adelaide


Christie Walk, Adelaide

Non-profit entities holding title to property in perpetuity; dual purpose

Community benefit

Perpetually affordable housing

Intentionally broad definition, highly diverse sector

Several phases

Farm tenure stabilisation

Affordable housing

Returning to initial focus on land, advent of environmental concerns

Examples – community land trusts

Legal agreement between CLT and resident spells out rights and responsibility of each party

Eligibility, inheritability, repairs and maintenance, renovations, equity split and resale valuation

Board usually has CLT residents, surrounding community and public interest

whether local government, other non-profits, businesses, lenders, chambers of commerce, planners…

multi-scaled, multi-stakeholder governance mechanism

does that sound like resilience?

Examples – community land trusts


Examples – community land trusts

  • DSNI – Member-based communityplanning and organising entity
    • “a collaborative effort of over 3,000 residents, businesses, non-profits and religious institutions members ” (
  • Board of 34 across diverse groups, including youth
  • Established a community land trust to develop and deliver affordable housing
  • Have overseen development of 225 units of perpetually affordable homes by their CLT, plus over 1,300 local development applications, often with several hundreds members in attendance
  • DNI’s strategic vision for the area has been adopted by the City as local urban renewal plan

Examples – community land trusts

Troy Gardens, edge of Madison, Wisconsin

  • combines community gardens, community farm, universally designed cohousing, sensory gardens, restored prairieland
  • sited on a CLT
replicating innovation
Replicating innovation
  • Why?
    • currently, only 1 in 10 cohousing developments ever see completion and take in the vicinity of 10 years to develop
    • CLTs not yet established and need property or funds to get started in overheated markets
    • Knowledge is very patchy; need for capacity building
    • Building resilience through tapping extant capacities, utilising networks especially in relatively small sectors
replicating innovation1
Replicating innovation
  • in CLTs
    • City of Irvine, CA formed a CLT to develop and steward 10,000 homes using US$250m
    • Chicago, IL similar scale
    • City appointing Board – traditionally appointed by membership; may be innocuous but is generating suspicion
    • issues of scale in other types of community-based housing organisations
replicating innovation2
Replicating innovation
  • scale in CBHOs

The adoption of relatively expansive boundaries…diluted the access of low-income, minority residents to decision-making in the organisations. As a result, while institutions and the middle class were well represented on governing boards, none of the executive directors indicated that renters, the poor or other indigent groups were highly visible.

Silverman 2009, p13

replicating innovation3
Replicating innovation
  • scale in CBHOs

In essence, disincentives existed for CBHOs to pursue community organising and advocacy work, since rewards came from conforming to decision-making processes that were centralised…For the scope of citizen participation to expand, [local administrators’] roles would have to shift to a focus on facilitating and monitoring systems designed to expand grassroots control of local community development.

Silverman 2009, pp19, 22

replicating innovation4
Replicating innovation
  • Petaluma Ave Homes, Sebastopol, CA
    • 45 very-low and low-income rental homes built around common facilities on 1ha
    • 290m2 common house contains dining room, kitchen, lounge, kids’ room, laundry and computer room
    • initiated by the city, which dedicated the land to the project
    • all residents subject to income and assets test and as per state fair housing law, must be selected via a lottery process
    • homes are a mix of 1 and 2-bedroom units and 3-bedroom townhouses
    • development process was planned as a hybrid between cohousing’s traditional, community-controlled development and planning process, and the legally required eligibility and lottery process
replicating innovation5
Replicating innovation
  • Petaluma Ave Homes, Sebastopol, CA
    • partnership between McCamant and Durrett Architects and Affordable Housing Associates
    • in contrast to usual cohousing, there is no driving resident group
    • AHA hired community facilitator to organise and run “cohousing club” – regular social and information sessions
    • formation of steering committee from cohousing club and surrounding residents. Role after occupancy? No guarantee of residency to any participants.
replicating innovation6

“cohousing club”

– prospective residents

McCamant and Durrett

Affordable Housing Associates

Paid cohousing facilitator



intended self-selection into lottery process

site design and build process

Cohousing development


Replicating innovation

Schematic of Petaluma Ave process

replicating innovation7
Replicating innovation
  • Petaluma Ave Homes, Sebastopol, CA – challenges
    • how get people to buy in to a process when their residency or ongoing involvement is not guaranteed?
    • how maintain shared spaces in absence of a core group that has bought in to the process and project?
    • can’t screen on the basis of involvement
    • roles proposed for the facilitator who will be onsite for a limited time
      • Possible to make that facilitation role a position that carries tenure?
      • Tensions between community development and fair housing law
  • does service delivery need to establish and support mediating spaces between centralised provision, support and monitoring, and decentralised design and control?
  • establishment of enabling legislation, funding and shift from direct provision to include resourcing and monitoring
  • parallels and rumblings in utility provision – possibly decentralise minor system maintenance in return for reduced fees? Although energy providers in Australia cannot implement consistent billing…


  • Resilience per se doesn’t necessarily guarantee social or environmental equity: many unjust things can prove resilient over time.
    • tension between resilience and adaptive capacity in literature; role of normative values in definition
  • Appears a useful metaphor, design philosophy and analytical framework, but only when clear about definition and parameters
    • vital for contextualised definition of aims and objectives, but needs access to broader support, regulation and resources on ongoing basis
    • also must be accessible, contestable and flexible over time
The development of resilient housing requires (at least):

broader metropolitan planning that thinks outside the box

question of governance – currently marketplace is the default housing governance arena

planning legislation to accommodate sustainable and flexible design (BASIX +++) , facilitation of better practice

appropriate costing of externalities; currently this makes unsustainable design and consumption cheap

public debate about affordability and broadening the housing/land tenure options and mixes available, changing role of public administration?

Australia has a severely limited range of tenure options, policymakers are between a rock and a hard place

  • Reflections