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Conference paper
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With a degree of boosterist exuberance, a recent piece in the Newcastle Herald argues that the inner city of Newcastle is in transition. At the centre of this transition are residents. Stories of property-led urban development and gentrification, like that of Newcastle, appear to be widespread in Australian cities. The role of residents in populating growing numbers of medium and high density housing stock in inner cities is, then, central to processes of contemporary urban change and requires close scrutiny. Indeed, many researchers are unpacking this, perhaps most notably in relation to planning and governance of the ‘compact city’ (Bunker et al 2002; Burton 2000; Buxton & Tieman 2004; Randolph 2006; Searle 2003). But, there has been little research on the experiences and perspectives of residents living in these newer examples of medium density housing. The lack of detailed empirical research into such residents’ perspectives runs the risk of over-simplifying the way residents live in medium density residential environments. For Newcastle, its nascent ‘new high-rise society’ could become an ever-more meaningless term for residents of denser housing forms. This paper joins recent research into the lived experience of newer medium and high density housing (see Easthope & Judd 2010; Oakley & Johnson 2011) by reporting on what residents themselves claimed to be important to their residential experience. Empirically, the paper examines inner city medium density housing residents’ perspectives of living in their dwelling and/or building. It uses a case study of seven recently constructed, relatively expensive medium density housing developments within the inner city area of Newcastle NSW. The paper engages the concept of ‘home’ in the human geography literature and applies that concept to medium density housing as a site of homemaking practice. After outlining the case study and data collection methods, this argument is developed by detailing two key themes arising from the responses of residents regarding living in medium density, namely: maintenance and personalisation; and neighbouring. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings and the role for further research on resident experience.

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