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HomeAustraliaWanted: family-friendly apartments. But what do families want from apartments?

Wanted: family-friendly apartments. But what do families want from apartments?


The family-friendly apartment is an idea whose time has come. For example, in Sydney’s Liverpool CBD, half of the apartments are occupied by families with children, ours newly published study found it. This is twice the average for metropolitan Sydney.

The high percentage of families living in apartments in city centers such as Liverpool is often overlooked when they are in suburban areas dominated by lower density detached housing.

The proportion of families living in apartments poses a challenge for many assumptions about living in high-rise buildings. Apartments are often seen as “stepping stones” for singles and couples on their way to detached houses, or a convenient lifestyle option for downsizers and empty-nesters.

The families in our study prioritize large, centrally located apartments over detached, car-dependent homes. However, we found that there is a lack of larger apartments designed to meet the needs of families.

Read more: Quality of life in high-density apartments varies. Here are 6 ways to improve it

Families see advantages in living in an apartment

The families we interviewed reported many benefits to apartment living. They appreciated the proximity to work, schools and leisure facilities, with easy walking access to various shops and services.

These preferences reflect the marketed benefits of compact living. And our research shows that several households, including families with children, recognize these benefits. This points to a more fundamental shift in housing demand.

Families appreciate the easy access to services and amenities that living in CBD apartments offers.

In our study participants, the birth of a new child did not lead to a detached car-dependent home. Instead, it led to a search for a larger apartment in the city center.

These trends are only partly about choice. Participants recognized that a detached house would be more spacious, but that it would also mean that they would have to deal with the additional costs of buying and using a second car.

On balance, participants thought the CBD was the “best place” to live. Their priority was to find suitable high-rise housing within walking distance of schools, shops, public transport and community facilities – including libraries, health centers and parks.

Read more: ‘I need nature, I need space’: high-rise families rely on child-friendly neighborhoods

The offer does not meet the needs of the family

However, when we compared the preferences of Liverpool CBD families to the housing supply, we found an overproduction of one and two bedroom apartments. These are responsible for most of the increase in the number of apartments over the past decade, as the table below shows.

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Despite the fact that half of all apartment residents have children, the share of family apartments has not increased. It has even declined in recent years.

In the 2011 and 2016 censuses, just over 15% of high-rise housing in the CBD consisted of three or more bedrooms. By 2021, it had fallen below 14%.

Without planning controls, the supply of large, family-friendly apartments is unlikely to increase. Developers, juggling their own material and credit costs, will always try to maximize the number of homes they can build on their lots.

The Development control plan for Liverpool CBD requires 10% of the stock to be three-room apartments. This is similar to the rest of Sydney. An exception is the Hills Shire council, which has experimented with 20% in development corridors. A larger supply without design and quality checks can nevertheless exacerbate the tensions of raising a family in an apartment.

Good design is important, as is build quality

Apartment real estate advertising emphasizes skyline views, open layouts, and private balconies. But it’s the less glamorous aspects – insulation, space and storage – that can be crucial for families to live well in a high-rise home.

Good family-friendly design includes space for children to sleep, play and study, and ample storage for strollers and the belongings of larger households. Adequate soundproofing is also necessary to reduce tensions over children’s noise.

All of these attributes are critical for higher-density housing to properly serve this growing demographic.

Read more: ​​​​How can families and their boisterous children fit into an ever-expanding apartment life?

Build quality is also important. a recent analysis of federal and parliamentary inquiries in New South Wales reveals the effects of government policies on deregulation, self-certification and performance building. The effect was to foreclose cost savings by developers and construction companies while transferring risk to consumers.

While state governments are experimenting with it new forms of regulationconsumers bear the lifelong effectsboth financially and emotionally, of construction at low prices.

Read more: Water leaks, cracks and flawed fire safety systems: Sydney’s apartments are riddled with building flaws

High-rise housing: more than an investment

Societies in which a shift to higher-density housing is part of family life must strike a reasonable balance between quality, affordability and apartment size. Yet these goals seem at odds with Australia’s reconfiguration of housing as an investment vehicle.

The protection of owned homes from capital gains taxes and generous subsidies for real estate investors have led to increases in housing values income from work. This sets the stage for financial and construction industries to benefit from investor-driven demand rather than the needs of diverse households.

Read more: Remaking our suburbs’ 1960s condos: a subtle and greener way to increase housing density

Reforms are needed on three fronts

Meeting the demand for high-rise buildings in city centers requires a threefold approach. Build quality, schedule control, and reconfigured financial incentives are all needed to encourage family-friendly products.

There is no doubt that high-rise buildings need a more central place at the national policy table. And at a more local level, there are steps that municipalities can take. These include introducing minimum requirements for three-bedroom apartments into development management plans and negotiating density bonuses for developers who deliver such apartments.

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