The number and proportion of Australians living in apartments is increasing. A broad cross-section of Australian society lives in apartments, but lower-income households are over-represented compared to other dwelling types.

Lower-income apartment residents have a diverse demographic profile. However, there are identifiable lower-income apartment-resident submarkets in Australian cities.

Lower-income households are disproportionally affected by challenges associated with apartment living, yet most existing research and policy does not consider the impact of living in density for lower-income residents in particular.

Underpinning the high-density development of Australian cities is a policy orthodoxy that privileges market-led housing delivery and a reduced government role in direct housing provision and management. In this context, policy interventions directed at lower-income apartment residents have been limited.

Prior research indicates that experiences of apartment living are mediated by the quality and design of the built environment, the nature and quality of service provision, and the demographic profiles and mix of residents at both the building and local area (precinct) scales.

Research undertaken for this study, focussing on Sydney and Melbourne, demonstrates that the experiences of apartment living for lower-income apartment residents are influenced by planning and infrastructure provision, urban design, building design and management, neighbourhood amenities and facilities, and ongoing place management and community engagement.

The research identified five main points of tension in delivering high-density buildings and precincts that meet the needs of lower-income residents. There were tensions between the development and operational phases of a new development; at the interface between private buildings and the public domain; over the alignment of infrastructure needs and delivery; at the intersection of local and state government responsibilities; and in meeting the needs of both current and future residents.

Improving outcomes for lower-income apartment residents will require shifting current priorities in both policy-making and practice. These changes range from relatively simple interventions to proposals requiring significant buy-in from both the private and public sectors.

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AHURI Final Report 329