Central city  |  4 May 2021

Steph Pole loves the sense of community in the central city ‘village’ she has called home for more than 25 years.

She is a member of the Peterborough Housing Co-operative, which has created a special pocket of central city housing in Christchurch with community at its heart.

The co-op dates back to 1982. Originally, it consisted of seven households in a row with joined-up backyards. After the earthquakes severely damaged all seven houses, they were demolished and replaced with 14 new townhouses, all built around a huge central courtyard.

Each townhouse in the co-op graduates from private to public space, with the kitchen and front garden serving as a threshold between the two.

A common house sits at one end of the Peterborough Street site. Large enough for the co-op members’ weekly shared meals, meetings and other social occasions, it has a guest apartment that friends and family can stay in.

“We are very proud of the co-op design and think it is quite unique. It was a long time in the making, with many people involved in the creating of it,’’ says Steph.

But it is the people and the connections they form that really make the Peterborough Housing Co-operative special.

“You have a sense of belonging,’’ explains Steph. “There is always someone to chat to if you wish, have a cuppa with, or just say ‘hi’ as they are going past. You know that people will look out for you and help if needed.

“At the dinners and meetings you learn about others and what is important to them. Everyone has a voice. Decision making is by consensus so your opinion is valued. You feel safe because there are people around that you know will have your back if needed. It is beneficial for everyone’s wellbeing.’’

Steph says the co-op is an amazing place for children to grow up.

“We have nine living here at the moment and they get to play together and roam, with parents knowing they are secure in the property and there are eyes on them.’’

The co-op has helped to bring some diversity to the Central City housing stock, drawing new people to make the Central City home which is the key goal of the Council’s Central City Residential Programme (Project 8011).

Steph is excited that the Peterborough Housing Co-operative will be open for the public to tour on 15 and 16 May as part of Open Christchurch – a new festival of architectural excellence.

She hopes that giving people a chance to tour the co-op will build understanding of the principles of co-housing and lead to more groups choosing to live that way.

The Peterborough Housing Co-operative is open to tour between 10am and midday and between 1 and 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Only limited numbers of spaces are available on the tours and bookings are essential. There is a $4 charge.