Friday, May 1st, 2015 - Smart Urban Villages

ONE of Australia’s top sustainable development professionals Ben O’Callaghan and seasoned innovation professional Rolf von Behrens have put a decade of background research into new company, Smart Urban Villages (SUV). In an Australian first, they are pioneering their new, affordable and sustainable urban housing development model - accessible to residents without the need for a mortgage. 

“What we’ve done is design next-generation sustainable communities,” said Ben.  

“Some of the differences to standard developments are that there are no body corporates and uniquely, the homes are leased for the long-term - not sold.  Each community (typically 20 to 50 dwellings) will be professionally maintained - similar to a retirement/lifestyle village model, yet for people of all ages and generations. Villages will also feature distinctly organic, sustainable designs and have a strong focus on community activities; such as the option to share meals which is a hallmark of successful cohousing communities.”

James Thier, Director of Future Super stated today “It is exciting to see innovators like Smart Urban Villages who aim to improve energy efficiency, enhance social integration and lifestyle choices. These are precisely the types of projects that match Future Super’s values and are capable of delivering financial returns for our members”.

The small urban villages will also be near city CBDs, making them even more accessible. Villages will include extensive common assets such as a community kitchen, shared gardens, a car-share system and other facilities to enable resource and cost sharing.

Co-Director Rolf von Behrens said: “SUV is bringing the successful European long-term lease model to Australia, combined with other smart features.”

As reported this week by Moody’s, risks of mortgage defaults in Sydney and Melbourne are growing as soaring house prices are matched with bigger loans and deteriorating affordability.

Rather than renting or buying, dwellings will be leased for the long term, five years or more, so residents won’t need a mortgage.

“Residents can save considerably more in the long-run, compared to traditional housing due to economies of scale, sharing of resources and the removal of costs associated with buying and selling homes. Yet the benefits are very similar to owning your own home, plus you get a supportive community and great neighbours” Ben added.

“SUV will build on multiple communities over time. We're actively exploring two sites and the first development in Melbourne is expected to be announced later this year. We have already had over 100 people register interest in the last month, just through word-of-mouth” Rolf said.

Smart Urban Villages’ first public meeting will be held in Melbourne CBD on 4 May 2015. Anyone can RSVP via the website:

The project is receiving substantial interest from potential residents and investors. Interest from current Melbourne landholders who like the concept is welcomed by SUV.

Ben O’Callaghan has over 15 years of hands-on sustainable community development experience and a Masters in Architecture (Sustainable Development).

Rolf von Behrens is a digital strategy and innovation expert. He brings extensive strategy and online community development expertise to the project.

Photos and Images:

Independent Industry Contacts:

James Thier - Director at Future Super: 0410 442 701

Lisa Roberts - Real-estate agent for Sustainable properties: 0413 265 362

(“The demand for sustainable housing significantly exceeds supply”)

The contact details of interested future residents are available on request.

Contact Profile

Rolf von Behrens

M: 0458160758

Ben O'Callaghan

M: 0419409887


real estate, ecovillage, cohousing, affordable housing, affordability, long-term lease, residential, housing, community living, Melbourne, urban villages, mortgage-free.




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