A growing number of Australians are being forced to live in high-density apartments, which is having an impact on future prosperity and cohesion of Australian cities, research has found.
The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), along with UNSW Sydney, has found that while just 10 per cent of the population live in apartments, it is over-represented by lower-income Australians.
“Lower-income apartment residents often have less choice and influence over the housing or location in which they live, and fewer resources available to respond to challenges that arise,” said lead author of the report, Associate Professor Hazel Easthope from UNSW Sydney.
“There is a lot of room for further innovation in the design, delivery and management of apartment buildings and neighbourhoods to improve quality of life for residents.”
The report explained that it is especially important to provide good quality shared spaces, as “lower-income apartment residents often live in buildings with few shared spaces, so the public shared spaces in their neighbourhoods are at risk of overuse”.
Having access to local community facilities and spaces – such as libraries, community centres, parks – is essential for apartment residents on lower incomes as they are less likely to be able to afford to use other commercial spaces such as cafes.
The research looked at four case studies of areas that have seen large-scale apartment development in Sydney and Melbourne and examined how these areas catered to the needs of lower-income residents. It found that one factor contributing to different outcomes was how well the urban redevelopment was coordinated by government agencies.
Across the case studies, infrastructure to support redevelopment was delivered in a more timely way where government agencies were proactive in engaging with developers to coordinate the redevelopment.
The pressure on planning authorities to ensure developments are both publicly beneficial and privately profitable is challenging.
While there was evidence of positive development outcomes, there was also evidence of speculative activity and inflated property values driving displacement, and developers overpaying for land then reducing quality to recoup costs.