Five years ago, a group of six Wellington friends starting talking about the idea of living together in a purpose built co-housing complex.
The idea gathered steam, a site was purchased, plans drawn up, and consents eventually granted.
The Buckley Project is now complete.
The two couples - one now with a newborn - and two singles, are living in four terraced townhouses with shared communal facilities on one site in South Wellington.
The group has learned over the course of the project about design, building regulations, finance, the cost of building, insurance and much more.
Two of the group, Tania Sawicki Mead and Alana McCrossin tell Nine to Noon the idea came about from wanting to own homes and yet not give up on the positive aspects of flatting.
“We were chatting about the affordability of housing, the quality of housing, and the fact that we all spent many of our formative years living in flats with our friends, and how much we really valued that kind of familiarity, the socialising and essentially the family that comes when you live with people for a long time.
“And we'd really be sad to miss that if we had to move in order to own our own home,” Sawicki Mead says.
They started to discuss the idea with their social consulting engineers, architects, finance people and lawyers before buying a site with an existing property on it.
They only had a sketch of a plan at this stage, McCrossin says.
“We were really lucky that we had amazing architects, Spacecraft, who are friends of ours as well. And they really held our hand through the process and talked us through all the different hurdles that we'd have to clear.
“Not just translating our insane, ambitious vision for collective housing into something achievable, but also, all the other experts that we would have to bring in, the limitations posed by the site - although we were really lucky with our site - by council regulations, by what we could afford obviously, by the availability of builders and timeframes.”
There were also very few precedents at the time, Sawicki Mead says.
“There isn't exactly a kind of established path. And so, we sort of had to build one as we went.”
The council were on board from the start, McCrossin says, the finance proved to be more problematic.
“In order to get your loan-to-value ratio, you've got to get it valued. And that is done on a kind of market basis. And if there's nothing else in the market to compare it to, they're just comparing it to whatever else is out there.
“For example, with our project, the communal facilities basically have no value.”
The project comprises four town houses attached to a communal deck and communal multi-purpose room.
“They’re small houses, they're 90 square meters. And they're two storeys with a little third half room in the roof.
“They're in a row, classic kind of terraced housing. And then, what faces onto the street is a common deck, which is connected to a common building, which is essentially a glorified plastic box at this stage, we have plans, of course, we always have plans to upgrade it eventually.
“But construction costs being what they are it's pretty simple at the moment, but what it does provide is this really nice open space for socialising together,” Sawicki Mead says.
The western evening sun hits the communal spaces and on the eastern side there is a small terraced garden.
They were lucky with the site, McCrossin says.
“We're right on the town belt in Wellington. So out to the north, we just look on to Mount Albert. We get full day sun, everyone has beautiful, lovely green views and a lot of privacy.”
Each house is on a separate title, they say.
“Practically speaking anyone can sell. Anyone is entitled to sell when they're ready, the kind of usual rules of ownership stuff applies.
"And there's a body corporate, which governs the shared spaces,” Sawicki Mead says.
Before they started building they had a “dorky visioning session,” McCrossin says.
“We wrote down what our dreams would be, a couple things we didn't get was a stream running through the property. Someone wanted a meat cellar for hanging ham!
“But aside from that we were pretty pragmatic, it was really important that we would be within walking, cycling, bussing distance from town - and we got that.”
They also got sunlight and views and warm, dry homes Sawicki Mead says.
“I have spent most of my life living in kind of drafty Wellington villas, just to have a house that is not drafty, that’s not damp, that’s dry, that's warm, that’s well designed is more than I could have ever hoped for.
“And the common space, humble though it may be, does fulfill that really important function of providing infrastructure for socialising. So, with that and with the garden I'm so happy.”