SMALL IS NECESSARY: Shared Living on a Shared Planet




20 January 2018



With great insight, Anitra Nelson shows how collaborative housing is emerging across the world to re-ignite the ‘Small Is Beautiful’ spirit of E.F. Schumacher.

This wonderful guide features inspiring examples for those who want to use shared eco-housing to tackle the challenges ahead.

Paul Chatterton, Professor of Urban Futures, University of Leeds, and co-founder of the Lilac cohousing co-operative


This is a timely report and a critical and informed exploration of an important and growing housing sector in which ideas of equity, sharing, and ecological responsibility are essential parts of real, successful communities.

Anitra Nelson is a seasoned and respected academic with a strong passion and deep understanding of ‘eco-collaborative housing’ as both great places to live and as powerful models for making convivial human places in a crowded and stressful world.

Paul DowntonEcopolis urbanist and cofounder of Christie Walk cohousing (Adelaide, Australia)

Small and shared: low impact living

Does small mean less? Not necessarily. In an era of housing crises, environmental unsustainability and social fragmentation, the need for more sociable, affordable and sustainable housing is vital. The answer? Small and shared living —from joint households to land-sharing, cohousing and ecovillages.

Using successful examples from a range of countries, Small Is Necessary shows how ‘eco-collaborative housing’ — resident-driven low impact living with shared facilities and activities — can address the great social, economic and sustainability challenges that householders and capitalist societies face today. Sharing living spaces and facilities results in householders having more amenities and opportunities for neighbourly interaction.

Small Is Necessary places contemporary models of ‘alternative’ housing and living at centre stage arguing that they are outward looking, culturally rich, with low ecological footprints and offer governance techniques for a more equitable and sustainable future.

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This work selectively reads the past (Part I), reviews the present (Part II) and speculates on the future of eco-collaborative housing (Part III) at a time when economic and environmental challenges threaten life as we know it, even our species-life per se.

Part I reveals the varied history of small dwellings, concentrating on apartments, to show — controversially — that neither equity nor sustainability are necessary outcomes of compact living. Appropriate residential and urban design and modest consumption are key to environmental sustainability.

Part II elaborates on the development, and types, of cohousing and ecovillages offering diverse case studies.

Part III considers, in turn, three key drivers of eco-collaborative housing — the state, the market and grassroots communities of residents — to speculate on the likely outcomes of any particular driver dominating future developments.

In short, the book starts with housing and householders but ends with social transformation. (See ‘Can housing struggles —> ecosocialism?‘, Progress in Political Economy, 13 March 2018.)



1. Less Is More: Living Closely on a Finite Planet


2. Once We Were Small: Traditional and Contemporary Homes

3. Apartment Living in Cities

4. Apartment Household Practices and Affordability


5. From Sharing a House to Eco-cohousing

6. Ecovillages: Sustainability and System Change


7. ‘Will You Dance with Us?’ Governments and Collaborative Housing

8. ‘To Market, to Market’: Eco-collaborative Housing for Sale

9. Grassroots Sustainability: Sociality and Governance


10. Small Is Necessary and, with Sharing, Feasible


Available as a paperback, hardcover and eBook. Buy or order from your local bookstore, or purchase online here.

Moreover, the book is in the Knowledge Unlatched select 2017 book collection, enabling open access to subscribed libraries.