I’m not talking about apartments today, I’m talking about homes. The kind of apartments that people actually live in, because apartments should not simply be financial packages. Apartments can be spaces with a personality just like a house, and look beyond the bare, white wall ‘AirBnB’ aesthetic. I’m really excited about this story, because almost two years ago we moved from our little place by the beach to an inner-city apartment. Our little family loves it.
Sure, apartment living is not for everyone, however all around the world, from Stockholm to Hong Kong, New York to Paris, families are living in apartments. Here in Australia, we are building a lot of apartments (there are 123 cranes in the sky in the Melbourne CBD and 60% of the construction is residential) but there is still a mindset that a family with kids need a backyard and white picket fence.
However, a strange thing is happening. Australia builds some of the biggest houses in the world and at the same time, there are fewer people living in each house than ever before. Picture big houses sprawled out at the edges of the city, with a sprinkling of people living alone. To me, that sounds quite lonely. Apartment living, on the other hand, has the ability to foster real community. In an apartment building, when we step outside our door, we see people and, quite surprisingly, we see the same people. And this, folks, is where community begins.
It’s kind of nice walking down the street and waving at Jags, our friendly coffee guy, or glimpsing through the window to see Joey cutting hair. Or walking past the window of the Chinese restaurant, as the chef chops off a roast duck’s head on the chopping block! Seeing these little interactions of life happening around my family feels good (maybe not the duck). Having people around also means great Neighbourhood Watch and that makes me feel very safe. Passive surveillance doesn’t happen so much on a quiet cul-de-sac where no one is around.
I know what you’re thinking ‘those poor kids need a backyard’. You’re right, we don’t have our own backyard, so our backyard is Fawkner Park. It can be an effort to get out of the house, and go to the park but once we’re there, we absolutely love it. Our kids know half of the kids there from school and childcare, so it ends up being an accidental playdate. They are sociable little people! Maybe one day we might move, but for now, this suits us perfectly.
Below are some reflections on how we’ve optimised the space we have, and tips for you to do the same too!