We need a more sophisticated conversation about apartments

We need a more sophisticated conversation about apartments
We need a more sophisticated conversation about apartments

GUEST OBSERVER

Design guidelines are one thing but in order to see ‘Better Apartments’ in Melbourne, a cultural shift whereby smaller footprint living is normalised is what’s required.

During a recent panel session on ‘Developing Policy’ hosted by Open Journal as part of its High Density Happiness program at MPavilion, Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, BKK Architects’ Simon Knott, MA Architects’ Karen Alcock and I discussed how to best support the creation of quality adaptable apartments.

The session’s focus was on the imminent release of the final Better Apartments guidelines, which are the culmination of a period of industry consultation that followed the Victorian Government’s release of draft design standards in August 2016.

If the large crowd at MPavilion was anything to go by, these guidelines have touched a nerve within the industry and the apartment market more generally.

In the process, they’ve initiated a vital conversation about design quality, especially given Melbourne will overtake Sydney as Australia’s most populous centre by 2050, with more than 90,000 people coming to live in the city every year.

If Melbourne is to maintain its mantel as the world’s most liveable city, this regulatory approach to ensuring quality housing will play an important role. However, there needs also to be a recalibration of how we view apartments.

At present, there’s a disconnect whereby the quality of an apartment is assessed from purely a cash flow perspective that doesn’t take into account capital growth or depreciation.

What’s needed is a more sophisticated conversation about apartments and how they work in a financial sense.

For example, apartments at Jewell Station, A New Urban Village by Neometro in the inner- Melbourne suburb of Brunswick can be up to 10 per cent more expensive than other apartment projects in the area but that is down to better quality design, including from a public realm perspective.

A whole new type of development is being created at Jewell Station, with a collective endeavour that integrates quality apartment living with social infrastructure such as bike paths, communal gardens, public arts and events programs, a rejuvenated local park, cafés, and independent retail and meditation spaces.

Educating buyers is difficult but they need to know that buying a high quality apartment is a positive financial step.

Buyers who are better informed about the benefits of quality apartment design will push higher standards on developers and that can only be a good thing.

James Tutton is director, Neometro and can be contacted here.

Tags: 
Apartments Residential Design

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