By Dominique Hes

    Imagine living in a housing community where you feel like you belong and where you have everything you need to not just live, but to thrive. A regenerative approach can do this. 

    Like a forest needing a healthy ecosystem to recover from a forest fire, our social systems need to be healthy to deal with many of the ‘disasters’ we face. Regenerative development aims to create greater capacity both socially and ecologically.

    A housing model that supports social and ecological capacity creates a green, growing, vibrant community which nurtures people and the nature around them. Elena Pereyra is an active proponent for better housing and says it’s clear our current model of housing doesn’t do any of this. 

    ‘While we have over 1 million empty homes, we have just over 120,000 people homeless,’ she says. ‘Here in Melbourne’s west we have hotter summers than those in the east, we have less trees, fewer green spaces, worse housing stock and we have greater percentages of people struggling with housing.’

    But many of these things can be fixed, she says, if we think about a different approach to housing. ‘If we add co-housing to the mix, then we are providing a model that is more affordable, creates social capacity in the community to care for each other and their community and supports better ecological outcomes.’

    Co-housing is a model commonly used around the world. In the Berlin region there are 150 and in the Netherlands there are 300 allocated for senior cohousing communities alone. In Australia there are only about 10 cohousing projects.

    Co-housing clearly challenges the idea of a home where you just shut the door and do your own thing without thinking of the community or environment around you. But it also means you have a strong community to support you. It overcomes many of the problems created by our current model which is decoupled from the wellbeing of place; unaffordability, isolation, disconnection, and unsustainability.

    Elena says a diversity of tenure models offers more choice and can achieve more affordable outcomes across housing and lifestyle costs. 

    We have a great opportunity to create thriving co-housing communities in the west, not least on the old Footscray hospital site. Communities with large veggie gardens, orchards, groves of trees and playgrounds for all ages. With car parks on the periphery the aim is a thriving, safe, walkable community where everyone feels they belong and have a role. 

    If you want to live in a regenerative cohousing community in the inner west join Westside Cohousing Collective: – or email 

    Cohousing is resident-led:

    • Designed together
    • Co-governed

    Place designed for neighbourliness:

    • You can play, eat, and celebrate together.
    • The common-house is a focal point of the community for shared meals, socialising, and organising,
    • Antisocial spaces (like roads and car parking) are reduced in size and kept at the periphery.

    Private dwellings and shared resources:

    • Dwellings are fully self-contained with all desired amenities of home,
    • Shared spaces can include: guestrooms (avoiding excess of ‘spare rooms’ in private houses), common laundry, workshop/shed, co-working space, music/art room, greenhouse, veggie gardens, etc.,
    • Homes are space-economical with all necessary amenities, promoting a housing model of individual sufficiency with shared abundance.


    Dr Dominique Hes is the Zero Building Carbon Lead at the City of Melbourne.
    Dominique mixes theory and thinking, with doing and testing to discover how we can best contribute to the well-being and thriving of place, people and planet.

    Dr Dominique Hes is the Zero Building Carbon Lead at the City of Melbourne. Dominique mixes theory and thinking, with doing and testing to discover how we can best contribute to the well-being and thriving of place, people and planet.

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