SEFA helps Nightingale develop new co-housing model

Access to affordable housing is a challenge for many Australian families. One company rising to meet the challenge is Nightingale, a design driven initiative started by a group of established architects in Melbourne. As a social enterprise, Nightingale promotes and advocates for adequate housing that fosters environmental and social sustainability and that strengthens communities.

Social housing concepts in Australia often rely on grant contributions, free land or other favourable terms. But Nightingale seeks to create a world in which housing in contemporary urban environments is accessible at cost. Its’ unique approach was first seen in its’ proof of concept building, The Commons, an apartment building in Brunswick that gained widespread attention and received several national awards. The success of The Commons led to the foundation upon which the Nightingale Model emerged.


SEFA will be collaborating with Nightingale and other impact investors to form a debt syndicate that will help fund the construction of the first house to use the Model – Nightingale 1, across the road from The Commons on Florence Street, Brunswick. Ben Gales, SEFA CEO says, “SEFA is keen to support the development of housing models where project economics stack up on commercial terms but where social and environmental benefits are simultaneously generated.”

Overseas, co-operative models focus on active participation from buyer occupiers, not only in the design phase but also in the actual construction phase. Using deposits from buyers to fund construction increases the risk, but participants are usually rewarded with significant savings when compared to buying apartments from purely commercially driven developers. Governments in some countries, Germany for example, recognise the commitment of co-housing groups and have created a support structure for projects to gain access to land at fair market prices.

Apart from the lower cost of building, the design of Nightingale (with shared facilities, roof garden and an active owners’ corporation), focuses on communal interaction, social inclusion and intergenerational exchange. The green infrastructure with self-cooling design, no air-conditioning or car parking delivers a 7.5 green star rated building that captures significant savings on outgoings for its occupants over time.

Nightingale is currently in the process of setting up a Nightingale Not-For-Profit Board, which will govern and preserve the mission whilst also overseeing all future Nightingale projects. SEFA is looking forward to continuing to working with the Nightingale team, and to contributing to develop a new model for delivering inner-city housing in Australia.




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