With the increased densification of our urban centers the traditional ‘Australian Dream’ of raising a family on a quarter-acre block in the suburbs is changing.
Apartments and townhouses, once seen as the domains of investors, young professionals and “empty nesters” are increasingly home to parents raising children.
In the 2016 Census, family households represented nearly half of all apartment residents. In Brisbane, for instance, the number of high-rise apartments occupied by families with children almost doubled between 2011 and 2016.
Families continue to make their homes in apartments, and this is an ongoing challenge for developers as the demand for family friendly spaces continues to grow.
Much has been written in the media about the need for purpose built ‘family-friendly’ designed developments and it is evident that these needs are beginning to be addressed.
Some developers are now offering unique selling points for families by including more communal and green spaces, adding family friendly amenities such as children’s playgrounds and resort style recreational areas designed for both adults and children.
While this is a great sign that Australian apartment market is adapting for a family friendly future, in the meantime, bodies corporate and apartment residents can do a number of things to create a more family friendly environment for themselves and their community, improving social connectedness, fostering good relations and enhancing the wellbeing among the increasing number of families living in apartments.
One of the challenges families can face in apartment buildings is developing a sense of community for them and their children.
Social connectedness can be encouraged and fostered through organised groups and activities, and the shared experience of raising a child in the area.
- Get to know your neighbours so they understand that you have children and your intentions are not to be disruptive
- Form a parent’s group for your building or local area
- Organize social groups and activities for community residents e.g. BBQ’s and picnics, movie nights
Apartment living often creates an emotional dilemma between being a good parent and being a good neighbour. Parents want to allow kids to be kids but are forever concerned about annoying the neighbours.
With more people living in close proximity comes a rise in noise complaints and an increase in the likelihood of tension between neighbours. Families in apartments can utilize some strategies to reduce noise issues.
These can include:
- Putting down carpet, rugs and foam mats in your apartment
- Restricting some activities to rooms without adjoining walls
- Restricting some activities to “sociable” hours
- Developing a routine that minimises noise disruption for neighbours (i.e. if you get up early, read with the kids or go to the park)
Making the Most of Smaller Spaces
Living in a small space as a family can feel logistically challenging. However, in other countries, small-space living is the norm.
Remember, your children can still enjoy accessing all their usual toys and books, providing you utilise all available areas
- Give the kids the master bedroom — for use as a sleeping and play space
- Explore creative ways to transform spaces throughout the day for different purposes — e.g. a kitchen table can be used for eating, homework and laundry folding
- Create vertical storage spaces, for example, by hanging bags from hooks on the wall
- Bookcases aren’t just for books, utilise them as an extra storage solution
- Bunkbeds are the best! They save space and kids love them
- Consider your storage needs and revise any purchases your family makes
- Purge regularly, if you haven’t used it in a year, or your child hasn’t played with it in months, recycle, donate or dispose of it
- Once you remove unnecessary items, you’re most of the way their but you still need to exist with the essentials.
Many families are already waking up to the benefits of apartment living and discovering that not only can you thrive as a family in an apartment, but you can also make the most local features to generate an exciting lifestyle.
One of the biggest perks of apartment living is that you’re in an urban area. As such, you can access beautiful botanical spaces that you don’t have to maintain yourself.
- Families with children should have reasonable and effective access to essential community services and recreational amenities
- Effective access means a walking route which is both safe (free from barriers such as the need to cross a major, non-signalled road) and secure (having an environment suitable for elementary school children)
- If possible, choose an area with plenty of outdoor options, like parks, and preferably shops and transport close by
- Outdoor time is important. Schedule walks at your local parks, take your pets out, and open your kids up to the idea of local attractions such as museums to visit
Planning a Community
Where possible, bodies corporate and apartment residents should plan the sort of community that suits them. Either through economic necessity or a desire to be close to work, transport and the cultural life of the city, many families are choosing to remain in apartments as their children age.
- Where there is a mix of family and non-family households within a building, where possible, similar households should be grouped together to encourage neighbourly behaviour and social contact.
- Grouping of similar households results in higher levels of satisfaction and fewer complaints about children’s activities and noise.
Children need play places where they can intervene and interact with their environment, where they can move things around and create their own spaces.
However, children playing on common property can be a controversial topic. The residents with the children cannot see any issue with this and yet other residents are very concerned when this happens.
One of the difficult issues that Australian strata schemes will increasingly face is balancing the interests of adults and children.
For communities with a high number of families:
- Experience has shown that children will play everywhere; the entire site should be designed to withstand use by children.
- Your body corporate may want to consider reviewing by-laws that affect children playing in common areas- each strata scheme will be different so find the best fit for your community
- Your body corporate could encourage longer-term leases that allow for the extended tenure needed for residents to form stronger connections
- With children using an outdoor space, it is essential that the landscape materials used stand up to wear and tear
- Trees and shrubs should be of sufficient size to withstand the rough and tumble of children’s play
Adult Only Spaces
Adults need space too. Especially for childless residents in a community with a high number of families.
- Create adult-only spaces designed to discourage use by children. Consider roof deck and terrace locations.
Many families choose to live in apartments for the same reason as any other demographic – convenience, less maintenance and/or affordability.
Whatever the reason, many families with children are present in strata schemes, and this can pose unique challenges of which the strata community that both parents and the body corporate management team need to be aware of and work together to manage.
If you have any questions about creating a more family friendly strata environment, please contact your body corporate manager.
Author: Stratacare Australia