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A quiet housing revolution...

There is quiet revolution happening in Melbourne’s suburbs. More and more residents are looking for ways to actively participate in the design and delivery of their own homes. Whether it is millennials looking for a more affordable way of entering the housing market, or down sizers looking for something different that the standard investor-driven apartment options, the move towards participatory development is definitely on.

Also known local as ‘deliberative development’[1], this concept is not new. Internationally, housing models including co-housing, co-living and Baugruppen each (to varying degrees) have demonstrated how to achieve more tailored housing outcomes, provide greater design participation, quality architecture, and greener, more affordable homes. These models are challenging the conventional development projects to ‘lift their game’.

These deliberative development projects are playing an important role in providing greater choice and greater empowerment to home-seekers.

The Commons rooftop [Breathe Architecture]

Photography: Andrew Wuttke (Breathe Architecture)

The benefits include:

  • Alternative financing models and improved housing affordability Reducing costs of the project which is passed onto the purchaser. Removal or reduction of development profit and removal of fees and charges relating to marketing the development. Under this model, dwellings are purchased ‘at cost’ to improve affordability.

  • Greater involvement of future owner Delivering housing rather than investor products to meet the expectation and needs of future occupants. Removing unnecessary spaces and providing the home owner with greater control over the house they will live in. The initial design choices by future owners can also create higher quality internal amenity for occupants.

Participation can range from registration in the project and updates, specific questionnaires’ on apartment layout and communal spaces through to communal decision (eg: co-housing projects). The Nightingale model has shown how successful this participation can be in developing housing which suits the incoming population evident by the huge participation in the questionnaires’, information sessions etc. (currently circa 5000 people registered as interested parties for a Nightingale home).

  • Architecture of reductionism and reduced construction costs Removing unnecessary aspects of the build to reduce construction costs. This can range from eliminating second bathrooms within apartments through to removing all car parking.

  • Shared spaces and urban interaction Creating well-functioning neighbourhoods and communities with shared communal or public spaces. This fosters a shared responsibility for where people live and creates a sense of community identity.

Deliberative development can also play an important role in creating the mixed use spaces within the inner city where there is a demand for small office and creative spaces which are either collocated or close to people’s homes. There are a number of examples in Berlin of such developments which integrate living and working spaces to great effect. It is evident from project examples both here and internationally that there is greater interest, willingness and ability for deliberative development proponents to pursue other land use and partnership opportunities than for conventional development proponents.

  • High quality architecture Providing well-presented buildings which positively address streetscape. Buildings are generally contemporary in form and whilst can often have a pared back aesthetic, interact with the public realm, creating adaptable floor plates to enable spaces to be used as a work space.

  • Environmentally sustainable Including a range of environmental features to reduce energy consumption and overall operational costs for the homeowner. This ranges from eliminating heating/ cooling from buildings through to rain water harvesting and using sustainable building materials.

[1] Sharam A., Bryant L., Alves T Making Apartments Affordable, Swinburne University


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