Cohousing and degrowth

Charlotte Estey has written a master thesis in Human Ecology ”What Kind of Home Makes a ‘Good Life’? A critical exploration of the Swedish kollektivhus to support a degrowth transition”.

Under the capitalist growth imperative, mainstream housing is connected to high social and ecological consequences. In light of the need for an alternative approach to housing, my thesis adopts a degrowth perspective to critically explore an alternative housing model: the Swedish kollektivhus (‘collective house’; co-housing). In the kollektivhus, residents have their own private apartment which is smaller than conventional dwellings but share common spaces and domestic work. Through a case study of the kollektivhus movement in Stockholm, I investigate how the kollektivhus model aligns with the values and practices of a degrowth imaginary, and how it might support a degrowth transition through the creation of alternative narratives that challenge hegemonic growth-oriented housing narratives. I conducted semi-structured interviews with kollektivhus residents and other actors in the Stockholm housing sector and coded them using thematic analysis. My findings suggest that the kollektivhus model, in some ways, enables practices that align with degrowth values such as care, autonomy, conviviality, and self-limitation. In other ways, however, it does not; constrained by the neoliberal context in which it is embedded, it cannot support for example, the values of de-commodification and, in some instances, self-limitation. My findings also illuminate alternative narratives that reflect housing aspirations that can provide an alternative storyline outside the growth paradigm, by showing that there is another way to live a ‘good life’ without striving for profit. Through a neo-Gramscian political economy framework, I discuss how these counter-hegemonic narratives might help to erode the legitimacy of hegemonic housing narratives and thus support a degrowth transition.

Överst kollektivhuset Tre Portar i Skarpnäck, ett av fyra kollektivhus där boende intervjuades i studien.