Better places to live

What if there was a place to live where we could have really nice things, and have a good community around (but not too much inyaface)?


Jan Chadwick, 66: “With one daughter, and no desire to become dependent elderly parents, my husband and I saw it as a potential solution to ensure we stayed interested, lively and engaged in our community, now and during our twilight years.”

In suburban Cambridge (the England one), the 2008 financial crisis saw the developer of an orthodox (boring, car-centric) suburban development walk away from the part-completed project. They left an undeveloped empty site – and a whole lot of opportunity.

“It’s probably the only occasion when I’ll say thank goodness for the crisis,” says Cambridge city councillor Rod Cantrill. “The developers walked away from the site, so we had the opportunity to consider an alternative path.”

“Marmalade Lane: the car-free, triple-glazed, 42-house oasis” is a great read, some lovely journalism by the Guardian.

The process they went through is really interesting, especially looking at who carries risk and the financing side of it. Def worth a read.

“We had originally imagined a self-build project,” says Cantrill, “but the economics couldn’t work for the council, because the residents would spend all their savings on buying the land. We needed the equity to come from an established development partner.” 

A few reasons why cohousing makes so much sense:

Design places to live so people can have nice things

“It’s a very straightforward scheme,” says Bowles, “but with an attitude to private and public space that’s different to most places in Britain. The whole site is essentially a collective playground for kids.”

Informed by study trips to Denmark and the Netherlands, the architects banished cars to a corner of the site, devoted the central lane to pedestrians and reduced individual backyards to make room for the big common garden.

But but but how would they do groceries, get kids to and from things, go see friends without parking the car as close as they can to the house? HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Go on read for yourself!

Ain’t no commune

“It’s a community, not a commune,” one resident is keen to emphasise.

This is something Kiwis too are a bit leery of. “But what if someone obnoxious moves in?!” many (commenters} fret.

Firstly, it’s not houseshare.
Secondly, it’s not a commune.
Thirdly… aah just go and read some 101s on cohousing, commenter-people, before you start commenting “it’s never gonna work, I’d never do it”.

It’s actually a great way to get better places to live.


Image credit: David Butler, The Guardian

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