Village people on song


Imagine knowing your neighbours and having a say on what your neighbourhood as well as home looks like before moving in.

It’s the premise behind Queenstown-Lakes social enterprise, Urban Village, which is now
gaining serious traction.

When formed, its principal driver was finding more affordable housing for its members by taking profit-driven developers out of the equation.

Now it’s as much about bringing together like-minded would-be home owners and, in the words of ‘community builder’ Barry Grehan, ‘‘finding a developer who is open to the idea of building houses that are going to be partly shaped by a community of residents’’.

Last year, the group unsuccessfully tried to build a 10-unit co-housing apartment development in central Queenstown’s Melbourne Street.

‘‘We realised the plan for us to do everything a developer would do wasn’t reasonable.’’

Now, Grehan says, they’re into joining with developers on projects catering for a range of
home owners.

He notes with higher-density villages you get more common space to use, according to whatever a group wants.

‘‘I’d like a five-a-side football pitch,’’ he quips.

The group’s first project is working with Wellington urban planner and regional councillor
David Lee’s proposed off-grid eco-village on the lower flanks of Queenstown’s Remarkables

Lee, who’ll start with a 400 square metre meeting house, plans two villages of 15 to 17 high-specced cabins, each up to 30 square metres.

Village residents would hopefully buy their cabins for under $100,000, then pay a ‘licence to occupy’ of about $300 per week.

Grehan says Urban Village is also looking at an apartment block of 30 to 50 units as part of a larger high-density development in central Queenstown, and a possible co-housing village in Frankton.

He’s delighted his group includes professionals with knowledge of other community housing or co-housing developments, such as Melbourne’s Nightingale project, ‘‘which has been
a huge inspiration for us’’.

Grehan says his group’s focus on resident-led homes and communities is about creating choices, as against the current very individualistic approach to housing in New Zealand.

‘‘For some, it’s the worst possible thing, for others it’s an alternative to what we have to accept at the moment.’’

Grehan says Urban Village has about 250 households on its books but welcomes others — its website is