Living the high life? Parents’ experiences of raising children in new high-density housing developments in Melbourne

Housing and living arrangements
Thursday 26 July, 1340 – 1400


Dr Fiona Andrews
Deakin University

Dr Elyse Warner
Deakin University

Dr Belinda Robson
City of Yarra

Balancing housing affordability and access to paid employment is a key area of concern to families raising children in Australian capital cities. Increasingly, families are choosing to live in new, higher density apartment developments to achieve this balance. However in Australia, these apartment complexes have generally been designed for young professionals or empty nesters, so it is not clear how well they cater to the needs of families raising children.

This paper explored the lived experiences of a group of families raising children in new, private high-density housing in an inner Melbourne municipality. Parents with at least one preschool-age child were recruited from local organisations, community venues and high-density dwellings. Using a combination of interpretive phenomenology and the participatory research method Photovoice, both individual and collective experiences of parents were explored through discussions of parents’ photographs, depicting what works and what does not as they raise their children in these new settings. Data were interpreted using the World Health Organization Housing and Health framework, which takes into account the physical nature of the dwelling, the immediate neighbourhood, and residents’ sense of community.

This paper focuses on parents’ experiences of the physical nature of their high-density dwellings and the impacts these have on raising young children. Three key themes were identified that related to communal spaces, privacy and noise, and apartment design. The implications of these findings to housing policy and delivery of services for families with young children in high-density municipalities of Australian cities are discussed.