Institutions and Social Change: implementing co-operative housing and environmentally sustainable development at Christie Walk

It is evident that both the old laissez-faire approach and the more recent neo-conservative reliance on the market have failed to deliver housing for many people in Australia. The state-based welfare housing model espoused by the Australian Labor Party over the twentieth century has also been beset by problems. Social alienation, and the crisis in affordable housing make the case that individualist approaches to urban living are not working. More communal solutions are needed. At the same time the onset of climate change now prompts Australians to create more environmentally sustainable ways of living. The eco-city approach is considerably at odds with the mainstream for-profit sector. Eco-city developments are built to fit their place in co-operation with nature rather than in conflict with it. In short, they aim to achieve social and environmental sustainability, integrating plans for co-operation and social justice with strategies to minimise the environmental footprint of the city. Residential eco-city sites are designed for cooperative living (as in independent co-operative housing or cohousing sites). At the same time, they attempt to reduce the carbon footprint of the site, both during the construction phase, as well as during daily life upon completion. Here we inquire into the role that institutions have played in the shaping of civil society in Australia and address this question in terms of efforts to implement eco-city ideas during construction and to encourage their continuation in daily living. This paper examines one case study– a recently-completed innovative co-operative medium density eco-city development, Christie Walk in Adelaide.