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Footscray Lions Co-operative Village for women over 55, who are homeless or at serious risk of homelessness

United Housing Co-operative

Supported beneficiary groups within Women & Girls
Age Demographic
Varied Ages
Project Focus
Project Area

Project Description

United Housing Co-operative (UHC) is mid-way through the construction of the ‘Footscray Lions Co-operative Village’ in Summerhill Road, West Footscray, an innovative solution to the housing and support needs for older women. Our Co-operative Village will consist of 49 apartments for women over the age of 55 years, including those at risk of homelessness, older isolated migrant women and low waged essential service workers, which will become a model for rental retirement housing. The Village will have a strong focus on ‘tenant voice and empowerment’ which will define the future of rental housing for older women. Unfortunately, construction costs have escalated and UHC needs financial assistance to complete the build to ensure our innovative co-operative model becomes a reality.

In 2021 UHC partnered with the Lions Club of Footscray to re-develop the Lions Elderly Citizens Village and was successful in obtaining funding from the State Government’s Social Housing Growth Fund to meet part of the construction costs for a Co-operative Village. Unfortunately, construction costs have escalated significantly, initially due to pandemic impacts and soil contamination issues resulting in 50% cost increases. UHC has raised $30 million so far, but a recent structural engineering issue requiring a re-design has doubled the costs for steel and concrete foundations. United Housing Co-operative is confronted with a $500,000 shortfall. Any contribution to this shortfall will be appreciated.

As per research by Australians Investing In Women and Per Capita, A Home of One’s Own: philanthropic and social sector solutions for women’s housing, cooperative housing creates a more affordable form of living, where shared resources and intentional design can keep costs down, while addressing environmental concerns by embedding sustainable housing and community practices. They are particularly suitable and can benefit older single women at risk of housing insecurity and who are seeking community and shared care arrangements as they age. They have been shown to foster wellbeing and community connection by minimising isolation and promoting healthy ageing.

In many countries, housing cooperatives are longstanding and stable components of housing systems, providing a range of housing options that sit between renting and owning. In Australia, cooperatives represent a very small proportion of total housing stock, but the sector is poised for growth, thanks to the growing awareness and changing policies.

Expected Outcomes

The Co-operative Village will deliver a critical housing solution for female renters over the age of 55 years, that provides safety, security and affordable lifestyle, tailored to address the housing needs of older women at risk of homelessness, pensioners and low waged service workers to age in place.

The 49 apartments are being constructed around a central court yard on a 4200sqm site, including 28 x one-bedroom, 11 x one-bedroom with study, and 10 x two-bedroom apartments including 2 Gold standard wheelchair accessible and 2 Platinum standard apartments.

The design enhances a village-like feel, offering generous communal spaces such as communal gardens and a community facility, creating a flourishing community where residents feel connected to their neighbours, while still enjoying privacy in their apartments.

The Cooperative Village will have a strong emphasis on healthy lifestyles and community engagement activities in the on-site Multi-Purpose Facility which will be open to the broader community. Importantly, the accessible design of the apartments and Village, combined with the self-supporting community including UHC staff and the option for external in-home care provision, are critical ingredients to supporting and providing aging in place housing with dignity.

Apartments will also include low energy/low-cost living which together with rent based on 25% of income, will enable residents to have sufficient disposable income to meet all other essential needs.

Project Data & Lessons

The Co-operative Housing Village model will provide tenant members with direct involvement in the management of their housing, utilising the very successful co operative housing model where tenant members actively participate in operational management and decision-making; fostering self-governance, collective responsibility and empowerment. The Summerhill Road Co-operative Housing village will become a model for older persons housing and rental retirement housing.

Innovative Cooperative Housing: A Future Model for Older Renters in Melbourne - Our project not only serves as a demonstration of innovative cooperative housing but also lays the groundwork for future housing solutions for older renters in Melbourne. This model, with its tailored design, community-centric approach, long-term sustainability, and innovative governance, offers a blueprint for addressing the housing needs of older individuals. By showcasing its potential, we envision a future where this model becomes the standard for providing safe, supportive, and inclusive housing for older renters throughout Melbourne.

UHC will measure and evaluate the impact of the Co-operative Village by:

  • Quantitative data on number of older women provided secure housing at the Footscray Lions Co-operative Village.
  • Qualitative data surveys/feed-back sessions/ village co-operative meetings with residents to evaluate the impact the Co-operative Village has had on individuals.
  • Rent affordability, financial independence & security of tenure.
  • Well-being and quality of life through access to safe, secure, appropriate & affordable long-term housing.
  • Sense of community and increased social supports/ decreased social isolation.
  • Residents’ engagement and Tenant-led decision-making processes within the co-operative housing model.

Project Dates

Project Commences: May 1, 2023
Project Completes: March 15, 2025

Funding Details

Funding Needed
Current Funding
Total Project Costs
Approved Tax Deductability Status
Other Funding Sources
Homes Victoria Social Housing Grant
Other Support Opportunities
Pro bono services, Subsidies

Organisation Details

United Housing Co-operative
ABN: 47870380676


Justine Marsh
Phone: 0452400391

About United Housing Co-operative

United Housing Co-operative (UHC) is a middle tier Rental Housing Co-operative, providing 135 community housing properties and tenancies for low-income families and singles in the inner metro western suburbs of Melbourne. UHC has over 40 years of experience in managing and developing community housing, under our very successful co-operative model, providing good quality, secure, affordable housing; and opportunities for tenant members to overcome adversity and improve the lives of themselves and their children. We have a strong focus on personal empowerment, tenant voice, informal support and education and training.

Please refer to our Annual report for 2023 via the link below:

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