Traditional housing models are just not working well.
In the city
In inner urban areas, buildings are becoming taller and apartments smaller. Although density is often touted as being a solution to housing problems, it’s more often a money-making exercise for developers. Investors who purchase and rent out apartments for as much as possible also play a part in making this a less affordable model.
Compression development like this doesn’t help to build good community either. Residents are on the street less often and chance encounters are radically reduced which can lead to social isolation. Tall buildings also create large shadows, wind tunnels and a poor street environment, which in turn makes the street less active.
In the suburbs
On the other hand, the dream of owning a house with a large block of land is responsible for suburban sprawl. Multiple bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, driveways and garages all require a lot of space and eat up a lot of land.
The suburbs are also not conducive to good community. The broader the sprawl, the less chance of proximity to public transit options. This necessitates owning a car to get anywhere, which means there are less chance encounters with your neighbors and less community engagement. After a long commute from work, residents just drive straight into their garage and, more often than not, walk straight through a door into their house.
A new housing model
We need to find a new model – something in between the two. The Nightingale model in Australia is a shining example. In 2007 Jeremy McLeod and his architecture studio, Breathe, along with five other architects, decided to build a flagship alternative housing model. It was to be a triple bottom line building – one that was sustainable, livable and also made a financial return for its investors. The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-8 made financing particularly difficult and prevented them from achieving everything they had hoped to accomplish. Still, the building won 21 awards. 12 years later, with three completed projects and seven more in the making, Nightingale is a flourishing community housing project with a waiting list of over 8,000 buyers.
This may be the way forward.
Watch Jeremy’s TedX talk here.
Image courtesy of Eve Picker.