NSW Planning Minister must support apartments for families: Chris Johnson

NSW Planning Minister must support apartments for families: Chris Johnson
NSW Planning Minister must support apartments for families: Chris Johnson

Statements by the NSW Planning Minister raising concerns about high rise apartment living for families are misplaced.

NSW Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, has recently raised concerns about both urban sprawl and high density apartments by preferring town houses and terrace houses for families as Sydney grows.

In an article in the Sun-Herald Minister Stokes said 'We have an ideology in favour of sprawl, which has proven wrong' and 'an ideology in favour of high-rise might lead to problems in 50 years' time'. But many Sydney families are preferring the more co-operative lifestyle of apartment living, where much bigger gardens are shared by a number of families.

The 2016 census demonstrated that 28 per cent of Sydney's apartments are occupied by families and the apartment market is responding to this trend by providing onsite child care, large gardens and parks, as well as playgrounds that mean children get much bigger and better facilities than the small back garden in a terrace house.

Shared swimming pools are also an asset in apartments while terrace house gardens cannot have space for a pool.

The Urban Taskforce has recently undertaken research on the growing trend towards family living in apartments, and has found many examples of successful lifestyles. The development, The Gallery, by Meriton at Roseberry has a day care centre right next to the front door with a large play area in the internal courtyard.

Resident Lauren, with her little boy Lucas, are thrilled with the apartment lifestyle having access to shared swimming pools, playgrounds and parks as well as to local schools. At Harold Park by Mirvac the apartments open directly onto a shared park with playground facilities for children of all ages.

While terrace houses are part of the solution to providing housing diversity for Sydney's growth the reality is that 50 councils petitioned the NSW Government against this code. The primary reason was that the so called 'missing middle' would change the character of Sydney’s leafy suburbs, and the concept of the detached house defining ownership.

A better approach may be to protect Sydney's suburbs and focus new development in more urban precincts around railway stations in apartments. 

The Urban Taskforce calls on Dr Stokes as planning minister to have an open mind about apartment living as a key component of managing Sydney's growth. During the recent NSW state election there was a lot of anti-apartment and anti-density rhetoric that was picked up by politicians.

We believe much of this came from older people wedded to the detached house as being the 'Aussie' way to live, but younger generations like the Millennials are demonstrating that they prefer apartment living, where they trade off house size for closeness to work and amenities, and are trading off excessive ownership of assets with a sharing lifestyle where access to amenities is more important.

The Urban Taskforce is developing a campaign to support apartment living as a vital part of the diversity of housing types Sydney needs into the future. Our "welcomehome.org.au" website is the beginning of this awareness campaign.

CHRIS JOHNSON is the Urban Taskforce CEO

Sydney Apartments Urban Taskforce

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