In March 2008, a group of like-minded people gathered together to discuss what living in a cohousing community would be like. The group found they had a lot in common and decided to work together to build a new cohousing community. Strong friendships developed, and, following the inaugural meeting, Urban Coup developed a constitution, as well as a number of important policies which guide decision making, conflict resolution, communication, and joining and leaving the group. In June 2010 Urban Coup became an incorporated body.
For many years, Urban Coup held regular meetings and social events, and hosted visits and consultations with members of other cohousing communities, building developers, and advocates of cohousing. Coup members include healthcare professionals, teachers, engineers, welfare sector workers, artists and writers, architects and urban planners, and some retirees.
Over a number of years, Urban Coup looked at various sites in the inner north and inner west of Melbourne, but it became clear that we could not compete on the open market with developers. In late 2015, Urban Coup began conversations with the newly-formed Nightingale Housing. At the same time, we looked again at alternative ways forward, given the high price of land; this led to the conceptual change from one plot of land and one low-rise development to thinking about two different options.
Most of us were prepared to sacrifice open space at ground level in exchange for being closer to central Melbourne’s amenities. A smaller group didn’t mind living a bit further out of the CBD if they could retain the Coup’s more open and low-rise vision. Thus Near & Tall and Far & Wide were born.
The Near & Tall group have since successfully partnered with Nightingale Housing to secure land, and design and build our co-designed apartment building in Hope Street in Brunswick.
This is not only a first for Urban Coup, it is the first inner urban owner-financed and -occupied co-housing development in Australia. The building was completed in 2022, when 29 households, in apartments of 1, 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms moved into Hope St, Brunswick. We are one of six adjacent apartment buildings that form Nightingale Village.
One of Urban Coup’s goals is to share knowledge about cohousing, and to demonstrate what can be done with a committed group of people. We hope that Urban Coup on Hope St will be the first of many ‘near and tall’ cohousing communities in Australia.
Throughout our project, we have used a modified consensus model for decision-making. This involves a commitment to work together until a decision is reached that everyone can live with. Mostly, we have found our process of deep consultation leads to consensus, and this is what we aim for.
It might sound complicated, but it works! Every decision worked on together strengthens us as a community.
We are currently adopting Sociocracy, which is a similar decision-making model, but with more specifically defined processes. These are designed to ensure both that everyone’s voice is heard and that time is used efficiently and wisely. We are working with Sociocracy For All, for training and mentorship.
For more information, visit: https://www.sociocracyforall.org/sociocracy/