Researchers at Deakin University are working on a community housing project to deliver affordable homes to elderly people with limited means in Geelong.

Deakin’s ‘micro-village’ project aims to create clusters of small low cost homes within existing neighbourhoods.

Targeting retirees and elderly people, the project, which recently received funding from the Geelong Community Foundation (GCF) and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund aims to address the problem of rental stress within this vulnerable segment of the population.

Dr Ursula de Jong, associate professor in the School of Architecture and Built Environment and a member of Deakin’s multi-disciplinary research network, HOME, explains that home ownership and the rental market in Geelong remain out of reach for many people on fixed low incomes, especially retirees living on pensions.

Observing that housing stress has implications for both individual and community wellbeing, de Jong said that the researchers are looking to identify the community benefits and challenges of integrating a micro-village or a cluster of small, affordable homes into the Geelong community.

“These homes are not just for retirees but would suit people on limited or low incomes who want to live in a well-designed, modestly-sized home.”

Geelong’s demographic makes it ideal for a project of this nature; data from the Bureau of Statistics reveals that the city’s population has more people aged 65 and over than Melbourne. This elderly segment mostly lives on limited income in affordable rental accommodation. But affordable rental homes, defined as costing a maximum of 30 per cent of gross income, can be difficult to find in Geelong.

HOME has now partnered with Geelong Sustainability to carry out a community consultation phase to develop a best practice model that will be used to design a prototype micro-village.

While the initial planning stage will target an existing group of Geelong retirees, the micro-village model has potential to help prevent homelessness and housing stress among disadvantaged groups in Geelong, Victoria and throughout Australia. Unlike the Tiny Houses movement, which lacked social integration and community consultation, de Jong says the micro-village concept places high value on social connectedness and its associated benefits for emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing.

The project will make recommendations on integrating similar developments into existing neighbourhoods in Geelong, thereby, supporting the wellbeing of micro-village residents and the broader community.