A new model of living

QUEANBEYAN sustainable housing advocate Stina Kerans has had to wait thirty years for Australian residential design to catch up with her vision of modern living.

But with a new environmentally-conscious, multi-unit development Sun Villages now open to investors and potential residents, it's a dream she's starting to realise.

There are already 74 occupied dwellings in the neighbouring Crestwood development Aspect Residences, in which the Kerans' company Integrated Ecovillages is a partner. And Mrs Kerans told The Queanbeyan Age that if she can see stage three- Sun Villages- come to fruition, she'll consider it a major victory on the road to better and more sustainable housing in Australia.

"Social and sustainable housing is absolutely vital, and we do it here by accident [rather] than by design," Mrs Kerans said.

"Like [Winston] Churchill once said, we form our housing, and then our housing forms us, and I really believe that."

Mrs Kerans and her husband Garry started discussing the idea of a village-style development that was both environmentally friendly and conducive to social interaction and community building with like-minded locals in 1982.

By 1995 they had secured land just off Uriarra Road and had a development application approved by Council, which then received a significant modification one week before construction work was set to begin.

That late interruption not only crippled the community aspects of their design, it was a major blow to their confidence as well.

"We couldn't sustain the ongoing costs and we didn't have the nous or wherewithal to take it to the environment court and object. We just cracked. It was a disaster," Mrs Kerans said.

However the Kerans went back to the drawing board, and with a lot of hard work and one timely bailout of $125,000 from a local Queanbeyan resident, they're beginning to realise their housing dream.

Sun Villages, like the neighbouring Aspect Residences, will incorporate a range of 'green' energy features including double-glazed glass, recycled rainwater, solar electricity generation and solar hot water to keep costs down and make for snug, energy efficient residences.

But it's the shared indoor and outdoor spaces and a design that promotes cooperative living among residents that sets the development apart, Mrs Kerans said.

"Community to me doesn't happen by force. You start with a village and provide opportunities for communities to evolve within that," she said.

"People don't really think they need community generally, but when put in the right circumstances- which goes back to the architecture- then people find themselves drawn in to it."

And after thirty years of planning, campaigning, and investing in this development, Ms Kerans said society has changed and people are more environmentally conscious, and open to different housing models.

"I think it is changing. Every meeting we've had, everyone's gone away really getting it," she said.

"One out of ten [sustainable development] groups succeed, and we've hung in there for thirty years and watched every group in Canberra come and go. But we're still in the race to get something up and going."

To find out more about Sun Villages phone Stina Kerans on 0428 268 935 or visit sunvillages.com.au.

Stina Kerans (front right) reviews plans of the new Sun Villages with supporters and potential investors at the site of the proposed multi-unit development.

Stina Kerans (front right) reviews plans of the new Sun Villages with supporters and potential investors at the site of the proposed multi-unit development.