A HISTORIC Edinburgh farmhouse could be brought back to life as the centrepiece of a new Cohousing community, designed to tackle both loneliness and the climate crisis.
The proposal to revitalise Comiston Farmhouse and create affordable eco-homes on the land around it is also part of the move towards so-called ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’.
The proposal is part of what its supporters view as fundamental and badly-needed change to how housing is delivered in Scotland.
Comiston Farmhouse – currently for sale by The City of Edinburgh Council – is to be bid for by a spin-off to a local Cohousing group, Co-housing in Southern Scotland (CHOISS). A closing date is expected for the end of May.
Said architect, Dr Richard Atkins, who is working with CHOISS on the project: “Cohousing means people have their own homes – healthy, energy-efficient, accessible and stylish – but also access to shared areas to mix with other people when they choose.
“Cohousing addresses the financial, environmental challenges of modern living – focusing very much on affordable, sustainable living in attractive homes within friendly communities.
“This project will also return Comiston Farmhouse to being an asset to the local community, and demonstrate that Cohousing is affordable and replicable on a wide scale.”
Cohousing is commonplace in Scandinavia, mainland Europe and North America. In England, flagship examples include YorSpace and LILAC (Low Impact Living Affordable Community) and a number of Co-housing initiatives are being planned across Scotland.
Common spaces in a Cohousing development often include co-working areas, guest rooms, gardens, workshops, a multi-use venue and laundry facilities – to be used as and when needed. Car sharing is also included in the Cohousing proposal.
Adds John Cant, one of the group’s founding members: “The Cohousing group aims to cover about half the development costs itself, with equity from pioneer residents. The other half is expected to come from ethical funders like Triodos Bank and the Ecology Building Society.”
The group aims to form a Mutual Home Ownership Society (MHOS), a legal structure to hold property in perpetuity, eliminating speculation for profit and supporting those on low incomes to buy into the project. MHOS has been successfully piloted by LILAC and YorSpace.
The Comiston Cohousing Group is committed to working with the community to find a positive solution for Comiston Farmhouse.
Part of the Cohousing vision is to involve the local community throughout the design and development process – and to create value, not only for residents but also the surrounding neighbourhood, by providing new community spaces and reinvigorating the area.
The group held a public meeting in February to share design plans with the Fairmilehead / Oxgangs community and gauge their response.
Edinburgh South MP, Ian Murray, attended the meeting and listened to the neighbours and their concerns. It was clear that Comiston Farmhouse and its surrounds are of enduring historic and cultural significance.
Under the plans, the existing farmhouse will be repaired and upgraded (using natural materials like wood fibre insulation and clay plaster, with everything possible sourced locally) to provide a mix of flats and communal facilities for the Cohousing project.
The planned homes around the farmhouse will be largely constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. CLT, which is common on the continent, uses wood as a natural, healthy and insulating material, and helps fight climate change – by storing CO2 and replacing carbon-intensive possible alternative materials.
The aim is to make to new development CO2-neutral; the energy-efficient homes will be built to require much less heating than standard housing, and renewable energy sources such as solar panels will be part of the design.
The Comiston Cohousing Group hopes The City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Government will accept their bid to purchase Comiston Farmhouse, providing an opportunity for Edinburgh citizens to explore a new way of addressing the serious housing crisis, working towards net zero targets and promoting healthy communities.
Notes for editors:
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Read more about the history of Comiston Farmhouse at www.comistonfarmhouse.com
The Comiston Cohousing project: https://www.comiston.org
UK Cohousing: https://cohousing.org.uk/
Picture credit: Imagine If
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