The inclusive apartments of the future need visionary backers
The Fifth Estate, 10 December 2019
Property consultant Abdul Khan told Tomorrowland19 about plans for a new style of sustainable housing, with apartments to suit everyone from youth with disabilities to retirees looking to downsize. But will politicians and developers back this vision?
About 70 per cent of future residences in Australia’s cities are designed to be high-rise but we are not planning for them to be sustainable nor particularly inclusive, says Khan, owner and director of ASK Property Consultants.
Khan was a lead sales consultant for Diversified Property Group’s Bel Air development, a sustainable residential housing project in Kellyville in Sydney’s north west that was completed several years ago.
“We really have to have a rethink [about how we build],” Khan says.
Diversified Property Group is an interesting family group that’s prepared to take risks with developments, he says.
At Kellyville, “They went out on a limb and literally developed this project, which was a $150 million project type of home [development] that consisted of six, seven and eight star homes.” The project attracted a lot of support from building products group CSR, the CSIRO, and the University of NSW, Sydney.
“You don’t have to have large homes that are energy vandals but it is also about educating people.”
The Bel Air homes were “designed from day one to be fully accessible, in other words, fully wheelchair accessible as [residents] grow older and their needs change”.
“There were first-home buyers in single-level homes, retirees [moving] into smaller homes, downsizing, and very substantial large homes in there, we are talking very substantial large homes, about 500-square-metre homes.
“They may be 500-square-metre homes but their energy bills are less than $150 a quarter.
You don’t have to have large homes that are energy vandals but it is also about educating people.”
Khan says a new idea that emerged from Bel Air was a vision to develop community housing that includes moderate-income housing, independent living for retirees and housing for disabled youth, with a full suite of services and support, all in a single project. It was dubbed the Faraday project.
The plan was for seven buildings, five storeys high, on a site of about 24,000 square metres, with sustainability measures such as solar power and gardens.
He says Diversified Property was prepared to put its money where its mouth was and build the project but it has been unable to get state government approval.
“There is nothing better than having teachers, firemen, policemen, nurses living in the same apartment building. It provides a sense of security.”
“These could be designed so that [the homes] can age with people and it is not that expensive to do it and there is a big market for it.”
The project’s moderate-income housing would attract key workers.
“There is nothing better than having teachers, firemen, policemen, nurses living in the same apartment building. It provides a sense of security, it provides a sense of community and a different age group. There are finances available to support this.”
Khan says a desire to provide housing for young people with a disability was one of the driving forces and the reason a youth care facility and a nursing station were included in the plans.
“We don’t provide any accommodation for young people with any form of disability. We put them into nursing homes; that is not the place for them,” says Khan. “They should be integrated into and be part of the community and it is easy enough to do.”
Bel Air development, Kellyville
It’s time to make this happen
Faraday had a floor plate that, on every floor included independent units and a nursing station, adjacent to normal residential units so that partners or family members could live near residents who needed support or care.
“The ground floor had a communal room and a café. The whole site was street-scaped so that it was wheelchair accessible. All the community gardens were of a height where older people did not have to bend down to do things and … children could participate in all of these activities.”
Khan says that in light of the number of people who need supported living, it is “imperative” we start to plan and build these kinds of housing developments.
“I just want to say that these [types of developments] are viable … a lot of money was spent [by Diversified Property] developing [the idea] on actual sites.”
But the project is struggling to get off the ground.
Khan says the problem is mostly “around political issues where everybody supported it but nobody wanted to put up their hands to make it happen”.
One reason is that land owned by Diversified and an adjoining site at Kellyville were refused rezoning by the local council.
Diversified had funding in place to do the project and Khan had access to finance to assist the moderate income apartments, he told The Fifth Estate in a telephone conversation after the event. Diversified is still keen to proceed, perhaps on sites along the Metro corridor.
“Right now, we have this tremendous opportunity … Landcom has sites where these projects can be put together. There are property [developers] out there who will put their money out to deliver these on the ground.
“I think it is really important that we take this opportunity otherwise it will be gone.”