A resource of Urban Design ideas and how they could be applied to Wellington's inner city.

Four radical real estate ideas to fix our broken housing system

This US article discusses the market-based housing model that is prevalent in New Zealand, where housing is traditionally a vehicle for private wealth creation.  It talks about the unaffordability for many people in the rental and home-owner market now.  The article discusses four models of ‘decommodified housing’ where housing is a place to live, not an investment vehicle.  These models, used in other countries, provide stability to families and individuals struggling to afford a place to live.  The models aim to move away from public housing to permanently affordable, inclusive housing models.

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As Wellington (councillors, Council officers and the public) discuss the future development across Wellington (in the central city and suburbs), we need to hear about these alternative models.  Central and local government will need to work together to develop policy frameworks to support the emergence of alternative models.

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This article discusses the tensions between the need to create more housing, the potential for psychological problems for residents and increases in rental costs in the future.  It discusses a 2012 competition for a development of a residential tower of micro-units (250 – 370 sq feet/ 25-37 sqm) in New York.  The winner had design elements of an innovative layout and building design, with nearly 10 foot ceilings and Juliet balconies to give residents ‘substantial light and air’. 

The article goes on to raise the risk of psychological problems for residents in different ages groups and career stages (eg, students, young corporates, older people) as the focus on functionality is at the expense of space for relaxing and self-expression.  The necessity to put a bed away each day (as an example) may not be the point of difference it was initially, but become a chore and be left down, further decreasing the amount of space.

It also questions whether in the long term developments of micro-units displaces other apartments (eg, 1 or 2 bedroom), reducing access for family groups, with the costs (purchase or rental) eventually rising. 

Innovation in furniture design shows how to maximise space – but would you do it?

This table transforms to a shelf in two seconds.  Watch video

Apartment dwellers know well how tricky it is to fit in everything you need and that items which serve more than one purpose are not only desirable but sometimes downright necessary.

The table was launched by Eve Collections at a design event in Cologne in January and the video has gone on to mesmerise the spatially-challenged everywhere.

Our homes may be getting smaller, but the upside is that designs are definitely getting smarter. The table transforms into a shelf in two seconds flat. 

But there is also a view that small apartments may create health issues. 

Shelf or table?

Shelf or table?

Residents on the rooftop of The Commons, Brunswick, Melbourne.

Residents on the rooftop of The Commons, Brunswick, Melbourne.

The inner city apartment revolution: think rooftop veggie patches and beehives.

A quiet revolution is underway in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, where a group of uncompromising young architects, investors and residents are rewriting the rule book on inner city apartment living.

This article outlines the background to the development of The Commons, which was the first development in inner city Melbourne built on a sustainable development model.  It outlines the challenges faced by the developers with regulators and the uptake by residents of this new approach.

The next development is Nightingale 1 (article says due for completion in Nov 2017) with five others underway. This demand led to the development of Nightingale House in 2015 to license the model to other interested architects. The model is based on: an assessment of licensees, a waiting list of possible residents, pair future investors with opportunities and create a set of sustainable design principles.

The focus of these developments is to prioritise the needs of humans and home owners – giving future residents a say in the design, and not just in their apartment, but in the whole development. This includes shared laundry, allocation of a garden space on the roof, not having an ensuite to gain more space, as examples.

One rule for investors  is a cap on profits from their investment at 15% rather than the industry standard of 20%+. Other differences include only owner-occupiers are able to buy, prospective residents (ie, owners) are vetted, and an allocation of units is put aside for ‘priority allocation’ to groups that find it harder to find and afford housing.