A new kind of community life can be found in group tenancy homes

A-Kruunu, together with Talli Architects, has developed a new type of group tenancy concept. The idea of group tenancy is that several residents live in the same apartment, with each having their own tenancy agreement. The first group tenancy homes will be built at the Haakoninlahti residential area in Kruunuvuorenranta, Helsinki. It is estimated that the homes will be completed in 2021, and they are being designed and constructed in order to function effectively as group tenancy housing.

Our new concept aims to develop homes with space solutions that combine privacy and shared space. This allows us to offer inhabitants more space and more versatile facilities but for the same price level as a private apartment. Shared living quarters provide a framework for the creation of residential communities, which is an important part of the concept.

Group tenancy housing differs from cell housing in that residents can choose who they live with. This allows the idea of communality to really flourish.

ryhmävuokraus

ryhmävuokraus

Cell housing is often perceived as a form of student housing. Group tenancy homes are not just for students, but rather these new kinds of homes are intended for people of all ages, both for young people and parents.

Communal housing: benefits and experiences

henkilökuva johannasta

 

Johanna Kerovuori is an architect specialising in communal housing. He is the most well-known expert in communal housing in Finland. In 2017, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health invited Kerovuori to join a group of 30 Finnish leaders and influencers to consider the Finnish society in 2030.

In her Master's thesis (TTY 2012), Kerovuori studied how a construction professional can help a resident group to establish a communal house or village community and, after graduating, she implements this as an architect and entrepreneur.

Johanna Kerovuori has lived her entire adult life in a community, first rented, and then in communities she has established and owned. Now she lives with her husband Lasse and their 3-year-old child Nuppu in a community of six families, all with small children and a shared value base.

Kerovuori established Finland's first Granny Commune, which is a commune aimed at older people. The Finnish Embassy invited her to Paris to talk about the project for a seminar on social housing, where the participants included ministers.

Kerovuori is interested in the open-minded development of various housing solutions. She has developed Vetovoimatalo®, a concept that combines data analysis with architecture that supports community spirit, and OSKommuuni, a commune that is jointly owned by the residents and investors. By sharing their lives, people can realise their higher potential - an example of this is the Lähempänä taivasta commune supporting Christian growth.

diagram describing the usefulness of communal living

The benefits of communal housing correspond to the three basic needs categories of people: material, social and basic needs for self-implementation. 

Material needs include safe shelter and both essential and luxury goods. Social needs include the need for proximity, the need to be valued or loved and the need to feel connected and being in a group. The needs for self-implementation include being special, having your own space and implementing yourself. People look for their place and want to do things that matter.

Social benefits - good people are close

Friends are close. The community idea often starts from the table conversations of a group of friends who think that it would be nice to live closer. Why not share your everyday life with dear friends? When you live closer, it's possible that friends become closer. The time spent together and the shared challenge to maintain and develop a residential community can deepen friendships to a new level. In the beginning, you can learn to know your co-residents fast and get a lifelong friend.

Learning to know different kinds of people. Not all members are chosen and there will certainly be people that will not become your best friend. However, it is good to learn to act and make decisions together with very different people. This will develop your understanding of the richness of diversity and develop your social skills.

Expanding networks. Friends and acquaintances of other residents form a larger network of light social ties.  Through it, you will learn to know people who do things that are new to you. These light links provide new and interesting opportunities that were previously unavailable. For example, you can hear about interesting events that are new to you.

The threshold to invite people over is smaller. Larger groups do not fit in a one-room flat, and a small mess in the home makes it more difficult to invite others to your home. In shared spaces, the order is maintained as agreed and it is easier to invite people over to them.

Fast spontaneous moments together are made easier. ‘Let’s go jogging, now.’ ‘I’ve just finished cooking, would you like to join me for dinner?’ You don't have to book time in advance in your calendar, and transitions are fast. It is easier to do things together with people who live close by in the same residence.

Material benefits - sharing can give you more

A shared square foot is better than a personal one. By putting the squares together, small spaces become spacious, easy to use and attractive. For example, the building's shared sauna with its fireplace room and roof area for cooling off sounds a lot more attractive than a small, sweaty sauna of a one-bedroom flat. In addition to a private bedroom, there are plenty of shared facilities in a group rental apartment.
Sharing enables better quality. When some of the facilities are shared, they are paid together. Thus living costs less or is of a higher quality. 

Joint ownership. If equipment or goods that are less often needed or expensive are purchased together, sharing enables better selection and quality. 

Borrowing and lending is possible when the neighbours are familiar. One might borrow a drill, a sewing machine or a kayak.

Joint orders The community can order food from a community food club or food waste service and save money and time. You can invite a massager with a travel table to the community, in which case they will receive more customers at once and the residents will receive the service at home.

Benefits of self-implementation - life becomes more meaningful

Sharing skills is easier. When people are close, it's easy to exchange little favours. People feel valuable when they are able to share their own competence - even if they are only one step ahead of others.  The skills learned during life are passed forward and bring pleasure for others.

Time saved from routine tasks can be spent on something more important. Sharing tasks saves time, which can be used as you please. 

Even a ‘difficult person’ is important. All groups always have that one annoying person. You can have a constructive view on this person and think of them as the community critic who sees the shortcomings and potential pitfalls. These issues can then be fixed, or one can prepare for them in advance.

Together, you can achieve things that are bigger than yourself and aim for a goal that is bigger than yourself. Some communities aim for higher goals, such as ecology, spiritual growth or societal impact. By simply taking part in a new type of community housing project for ordinary people, big things are done for others in the same situation. This will improve the living experience in Finland and leave a better place for the generations to come.

The author is an expert in communal housing, architect Johanna Kerovuori. 

When I visited Swedish and Danish communities, in almost every community, someone said: ‘Write this down, this is the only way that works.’ In each community, the system was different. What is more important than the details and perfection is the very existence of a system. 

The residents of A-Kruunu's group rental apartments will receive a couple of tools that have proven functional in my community: a cleaning circle and a small chore table. If necessary, residents can change the system, but it is good that in the early stages the work is fairly divided and the community is tidy.

Cleaning circle

The cleaning circle is attached to the refrigerator door. It has two circles that have been joined together. The larger sectors have the tasks, and the smaller ones the names of the residents, an even number each.  Each resident has a magnet that can be removed from the task when the job is finished. The tasks are small enough to make them easy to start. Better done than perfect.

In a community of four people, one is responsible for cleaning the kitchen, another for hoovering the shared facilities and a third for cleaning the toilets. One of the tasks is administrative. Their job is to check that the tasks have been carried out and to remind others if necessary. At the end of the week, they will rotate the circle to a new position. The circle is visible to everyone and social pressure promotes the completion of the tasks. It doesn't matter if you miss one shift.

Small chore table

Everyday life also includes small fast chores that cannot be placed in a cleaning circle without the task becoming too big. To keep the kitchen clean, it is essential to quickly empty the dishwasher so that dirty dishes can be placed in the machine immediately. The recycling must be taken out, shared facilities need to be kept tidy and levels need to be wiped. You drag a line to your name in the small chore table when you do one chore that takes a couple of minutes. In the residents’ meetings, the one that has done the most chores is rewarded. Each resident writes on a piece of paper a favour they are happy to do to another person. Those who have generally done more invisible work for the community than the rest, may choose a prize. The prize will be redeemed by the next meeting. The pleasant services strengthen the team spirit, and it is great to see what wonderful skills others have and are ready to utilise for others.

Responsibilities and other sharing

Alternatively, the community could also be built on permanent responsibilities so that everyone can do what they like or what they are good at - or even what they hate the least. Personally, I prefer the simplicity of cleaning a toilet over noisy hoovering. In a small group, preferences are rarely evenly split. The notions of cleanliness may differ and other residents might not be as meticulous as you.  With a rotating system, every place will be evenly cleaned.

But a community means, of course, much more than cleaning rotations. Cleaning is the most common subject of arguments, and sometimes there is an underlying reason behind the argument that flares up over concrete matters.  

Attention should also be paid to other types of sharing. In her book Viisas Arki (‘Wise Everyday Life’), Meri Lähteenoksa talks about the local funding experiment at City Village Annikki. In it, five old flyers for poem events were distributed to each inhabitant. When one of them did a favour for another, they got a flyer. If one person began to accumulate flyers, the others needed to make some effort to ensure they would also sometimes be the receiving party. ‘Local money’ made visible the services provided by neighbours to each other and made it desirable to complete them. The community emerged as the relations between the inhabitants grew closer. 

The author is an expert in communal housing, architect Johanna Kerovuori.

Our communal goals vary. While someone might feel group efforts to clean and maintain a residence and greetings are enough, another may want to share their dreams. Communality can be seen as a line with greetings and acquaintances at one end and living a common goal at the other end. These goals are different for different people. 
I divide these communal goals into three categories. This division is called the communality temperature gauge.

  1. Practical:
    The resident's goal is to improve the quality of his or her own life, make everyday life easier, make more living space available to themselves, increase his or her own opportunities and lower the costs of living. The resident is not prepared to spend much time on commune-related matters.
     
  2. Communality-oriented: 
    The resident wants to share their everyday life, time and resources with other residents. Communality is the main reason why they applied to be a resident.
     
  3. Aspirational:
    A resident wants to live in a commune designed to support the mental, spiritual, ideological or ecological objectives of its members. The resident hopes that they will receive support from other residents in living according to their values and will provide a group effort for changing the world. The resident wishes for common practical solutions for everyday life in order to enable the residents to work together, whether the solution is a bokashi compost bin or morning yoga.

If the residents' objectives concerning the amount of communality are far from one another, this will result in conflicts or residents will begin to quietly move away. “Communality is not my thing.”  Aspirational people seem like helpless dreamers to practical people.  A practical person living in an aspirational community may feel that more is expected of them then they are willing to give. In a practical community, an aspirational or communality-oriented person may feel that there is too little sharing and the connection between residents might be too shallow. 

The residents must first become aware of their own goals and share them constructively with each other. When interviewing an applicant, you can examine whether the applicant’s goals and views meet yours. Residents can ask about the applicant's wishes for community spirit and explain how much time they spend together and what they do during that time, and whether there established agreements on spending time together or sharing things.  

When living in the commune, the resident's objectives for communality may change. There are times when coexistence is more intense and when people come and go as they please with a mere greeting in passing. In smaller communes, the commune objectives of all residents should be close to one another’s; larger communes can deal with more variation. 

COMMUNAL BUILDING BLOCKS
Building a commune does not happen by itself, but requires effort. Moreover, a commune is not ready when the first inhabitants move in, but matures with time and effort. A group of occasional people can grow into a community by building group spirit.  Residents need time spent together, goal-oriented meetings, functional simple systems and parties. Different communities need different building blocks, but an aspirational community must contain both practical and communality-oriented building blocks.

  1. Practical commune
    Fair division of work to keep shared facilities tidy. (Linkki hyvin pyörivä yhteisö) Effective practices for amicable life together, such as periods of silence Information channel to be reached
     
  2. Communality-oriented commune
    In addition to the above Regular joint goal-oriented meetings on housing and living-related matters and how residents are doing Shared meals occasionally
     
  3. Aspirational commune
    In addition to the above:
    A written vision document that explains what the residents are committed to
    Jointly agreed practices and the promotion of joint efforts