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The appeal of apartment living has struck a chord with a new generation of adults looking to live, buy or raise a family in their own homes. As one of these "new adults", I find comfort in the convenience and closeness of an apartment.
Often, I find myself standing at the window of my corner at on Chapel Street, Prahran just watching the world go by and feeling at ease knowing there’s hundreds of things happening around me. I can get lost wondering what the story of each person on the street is, or wondering how the people around me are living.
There’s so much life and energy all around that it becomes easy to find myself immersed in this new take on the ‘Great Australian Dream’.
Critics of apartment living will lament the loss of the backyard and the loss of weekends spent mowing the lawns, but I don’t see that. My ‘Great Australian Dream’ makes the city my lawn and everyone my neighbour.
As this ‘Great Australian Dream’ is being redefined, a new movement is emerging that has this fresh cohort of Australians reversing the old desire to move into big houses in the outer suburbs.
This inward migration is highlighting a new phenomenon where people are rewriting the notion of the Australian Dream and rejecting the idea of moving well out of city limits to a more affordable life - instead choosing apartment living in highly developed communities close to town.
This in turn has created a new market for highly desirable multiple configuration apartment choices where the idea of new frontiers and ideal family life has changed to one of convenience, manageability and belonging.
More interestingly, this shift in the public consciousness isn’t only one of necessity, but also one of want. It seems the new norm is to live where a more energetic version of life is happening as we strive to connect with people and with street level things around us.
Couple that feeling with the sheer convenience of apartment living and the result is an undeniable shift from big backyards and white picket fences to trendy apartments in urban areas.
Of course, the urban life will never be for everybody, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, a lot of the connectivity that makes apartments and mixed-use spaces so worthwhile comes from the old Australian Dream.
Because of this, old is becoming new again as people take the aspects of suburban life that are so appealing and transpose them into new environments. Having friends a block away, walking to school, and going over to the neighbours for a barbecue exemplify the parts of the Australian Dream that people still want to hold on to.
This transformation is further accentuated by a changing population, whether it’s young people growing used to smaller living spaces or immigration bringing in new Australians with different cultural norms, it’s becoming clear that the tides of public opinion are changing.
Looking at our close neighbours in Asia where this kind of living is normal, we can see populations thriving in close quarters, where community stands head and shoulders above other needs as the most important part of societies.
The country with the highest population in the world is China with 1.4 billion people. That staggering number is 40 times larger than our population of 25 million, in a country roughly the same size. Despite this, they make it work.
In fact, they thrive on community spirit and belonging, with parks commonly filled to the brim with people socialising and exercising, and markets filled with friendly banter. The kids refer to family friends as ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunty’ and apartments are filled with guests, day in and day out.
This kind of community development has grown out of the power of high- density living where people opt to spend their leisure time in and around their dwellings.
This appears to be where Australia is headed as apartment living continues to grow beyond that of traditional house and land and the new order of Australians happily accept a more intense and collective way to live.
Where Australians once met apartment living with apprehension or confusion, we’re now meeting the idea with renewed interest and appreciation.
On top of this, the idea of what it is to be Australian has changed. Young people and new Australians are making up the bulk of the workforce and the bulk of the emerging population. These people could well be the future of Australia and they seem to prefer apartments.
As of 2017, apartments only made up 21% and 12% of all dwellings in NSW and VIC respectively, yet the amount of young people up to age 14 calling apartments home continues to increase.
One thing stopping families and older generations from joining their younger and new Australians is the more old-fashioned bias towards commission flats and towering uninspired steel structures. But this too is changing.
Property developers like Frasers Property are identifying that apartment buildings should be community hubs with mixed use spaces for people to live and thrive together, instead of blocks of rooms to hold the maximum amount of people.
The result is a new frontier in community living centered around the rise of apartments and the reinvention of inner suburbs as young and new Australians clamour for their spot closer to the high life of the city.