David Houston & Rita Simpson, founders of BUILDgruppe. Photo by Michael Wilson.

David Houston & Rita Simpson, founders of BUILDgruppe. Photo by Michael Wilson.

COuple seeking fellow gruppe-ies

By Belle Taylor

This article was originally published in The Sunday Times on February 17, 2019 and online on Perth Now.

Like many young couples, David Houston and Rita Simpson would love to get a foot on the property ladder, but their ideal home remains tantalisingly out of reach.

So instead, they have decided to build it — and their neighbours’ too. The architecture graduates are looking for people to join them in building a “baugruppen”, a style of housing involving home owners banding together to create an apartment building that suits their needs.

“The idea is that you get a group of people together, you find land and you develop your own housing on that land,” Mr Houston explains. “By doing it that way you cut out the developer who is adding on marketing costs, their own profits and their other associated costs that make the end product more expensive for the residents. The idea is to make housing more affordable and provide housing at cost.”

Mr Houston and Ms Simpson’s project is called BUILDgruppe, and the couple are looking for between 10 to 20 future residents to become part of the project based in Maylands. They will then design a range of housing options to suit those living there.

“Costs and affordability is one of the major drivers to what we want to do, but it’s also down to choice,” Mr Houston said. “What’s out there on offer isn’t exactly what you want. The way our model will work, is when we get to the stage of actually designing the apartments we will be able to design in unison with the (other) residents.”

Residents will be part of the design process, having input into the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and living space in their future home. The couple say there will be a particular emphasis on sustainable design and creating a community feel. The development would be mainly owner-occupied and any tenants would be on long-term leases.

While there are other baugruppen projects in Perth, most notably the LandCorp-backed project in White Gum Valley and the Nightingale development in Fremantle, Mr Houston and Ms Simpson say there is a demand for alternative housing options closer to the city.

“We have been living in Maylands for three years and it has gone through such a transformation in such a short amount of time,” Ms Simpson said. “It’s vibrant and it has a unique feel. It has that small town feel but it’s close to the city, on the train line and all the amenities are in the perfect spot,” she said.

The couple are travelling to Germany later in the year to further research baugruppen projects.

For more information, visit buildgruppe.com.au/maylands.