Life in high rise – are they designed for people from all walks of life?

According to AHURI Research, at least 10% of the Australian population lives in an apartment, mainly in capital cities (85%). Our interest at Shelter NSW is with the approximately 40% of households living in high-density apartments from lower income households. And while we are not against high rise living per se, we note other research that finds that these lower-income households, are disproportionally affected by challenges associated with apartment living. Importantly these researchers have noted that, “it’s not just the buildings, high-density neighbourhoods make life worse for the poor.”

The experiences of apartment living for lower-income apartment residents are influenced by many factors. Tensions can arise from a variety of sources – whether it be noise; conflict over shared spaces like gardens and laundries; or the management of safety and security issues. And of course, these tensions often land on people already stressed by the pressures of poverty, insecure work and any number of personal or health circumstances.

Navigating these issues is difficult for most people, but lower income renters (whether social, affordable or private) have less flexibility and capacity to simply move if the situation becomes untenable. This is especially the case in a tight rental market with limited options for low-income people (let alone those with families, disabilities, carer responsibilities or other complicating factors).

We covered this in our April 2022 submission Waterloo Estate South Planning Proposal (from page 9). With this proposal under reconsideration by the new Government we reiterate our recommendation; that is, to ensure lower-income residents (overwhelmingly renters) whether in social, affordable or private dwellings are a key focus of any future precinct, building and dwelling design considerations.

And of course, with so many high-rise communities already well-established in Sydney, there’s an opportunity to check back, as suggested by this article, The Value of Listening to new neighbourhoods to better understand what life is really like once the scaffolding comes down and residents make a life in a new precinct.