For many of us, the idea of owning a home can seem like an unattainable dream. According to the ABC, the median price of a home in Melbourne is around the $1 million mark. Purchasing an apartment is certainly less expensive, but it's still not cheap, with average prices of $500,000 and above for one-bedroom units.
Is it possible to create affordable housing that isn't uncomfortably small and decrepit, or is that a wild and utopian dream? Jeremy McLeod believes the former, and his firm got to work designing the Commons, an apartment complex that was completed in 2013 and is just off Sydney Road in Brunswick.
The Commons won several awards for its use of sustainable materials and design to keep the cost of living low by eliminating the need for in-unit air conditioning. The building also features a communal and green rooftop space and artist studios. People began asking for more apartments just like it, so McLeod and co-founder Tamara Veltre established Nightingale Housing in 2014.
Nightingale Housing aims to create socially, financially and environmentally sustainable buildings that are high quality and affordable. These ideals are achieved through methods like building near public transport to eliminate the need for private car ownership, creating shared amenity spaces like rooftop gardens and laundries, selling only to residents and not investors and ensuring each project is carbon neutral.
So far, three Nightingale projects have been completed in Brunswick and Fairfield, and there are 16 others in the works, including one in Preston. Nightingale apartments start at around $275,000 for a studio-style 'Teihaus' apartment and increase in cost depending on the location, the number of bedrooms and which floor you’d like to live on. Demand is high, so to become a resident you must enter a ballot.
"Ballot day is by far the best day in the office, [but] it can be a tough day too," says head of operations Dan McKenna. "We call everyone that’s balloted to tell them if they have been successful or not. There can be some really lovely dream-come-true moments, but it can be disappointing for some. However, the good news is we are growing, scaling up our impact, and new Nightingale homes are never too far away."
In an effort to address inequities in the housing system, 20 per cent of the ballot is prioritised for essential services workers, those living with disabilities, carers, people with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background and single women aged 55 and over (the fastest growing cohort of homeless Australians).
If the idea of living in a Nightingale home appeals to you, the next ballot will open towards the end of October for Nightingale’s Preston project. You can visit the Nightingale Housing website to register your interest now. Whether or not Nightingale is the future of urban living remains to be seen, but with thousands of people vying for a spot in these buildings, it's evident that the current housing market leaves a lot to be desired.