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apartment feature

Easy living in an apartment

Catherine Carter

People are often amazed to discover that, despite being a busy mother with two children, a husband and a dog, I live in an apartment.

But I do.

A few years ago, my family made the decision to move to an inner city apartment. Despite the perception by those who don’t know me that I must now live in a ‘dog box’ with no access to open space for children to play, I have parks, cafes and services, not to mention the sparkling Lake Burley Griffin on my doorstep. The children (and the dog) have never been happier.

Apartments are often seen as the domain of the young and unattached, but our home offers everything we need as a family. It is spacious, secure, comfortable and within walking distance of my children’s school. I’m a stone’s throw from the city and work, and my eyes never water when I open my quarterly utility bills – even in the dead of winter.

People from Paris to Prague, New York to New Delhi have lived comfortably in apartments for generations. But in Australia, apartment living is generally seen as a ‘compromise’ or for people who have no other choice.

But this is changing. Twenty-one percent of households in Australia are flats, units, apartments, terrace houses or townhouses – and this figure is expected to rise sharply in the next few years.

The squeeze on housing affordability has had an impact on the choices of young families and especially Generation Y home hunters, many of whom are reluctant to live in the ‘burbs.

Baby boomers are increasingly opting for the ‘lock it and leave’ lifestyle, while women working longer hours has changed the way we live too.

Houses require upkeep, and fewer people have time for mowing lawns and clearing out the gutters. A smaller space means more time to socialise, relax and spend weekends away.

Apartment living suits my family, but I would never attempt to prescribe it to others.

The Grattan Institute’s report, The housing we’d choose, found that contrary to our assumptions that everyone wants the backyard replete with barbecue, Hills Hoist and lawn, Australians want a much more varied mix of housing choice than our cities currently provide.

The Grattan Institute surveyed more than 700 Australian families about the type of home they’d like to live in, asking them to take into account realities such as current housing costs and their income. This often required respondents to make trade-offs between size and type of housing, and its location – something most of us have to do when we are house hunting.

Once these trade-offs are taken into account, big differences emerge between the housing Australians say they’d choose and the stock we currently have – with many more people opting for townhouses and apartments than we currently have available.

As our cities grow and mature, they are naturally becoming denser as people look for quality amenity and lifestyle at an affordable price. While the Great Australian Dream isn’t dead, it’s changing, and that may mean looking beyond the detached home on the quarter acre block.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia

Image of ‘Stylish balcony with chaise lounge and chairs overlooking the city‘ via Shutterstock

Catherine Carter

A lover of books and beauty, a seasoned traveller and creative thinker, Catherine is passionate about Canberra. Catherine is intensely interested in how Canberrans can work together to create an amazing city, and how our built environment can provide the places our community needs to flourish. The mother of twins, Catherine is committed to diversity, and supporting and promoting the careers of women. She was the recipient of the Telstra Business Women's ACT Community and Government Award in 2010. More about the Author

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