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TURNER makes affordable housing aspirational

TURNER makes affordable housing aspirational


The Sydney-based architecture and design practice is collaborating with NSW Land and Housing Corporation and City West Housing to deliver affordable housing grounded in premier design principles.

Affordable housing has unfortunately developed the reputation as negligent of good quality design, and consequently many low-income individuals and families are forced to reside in inadequate housing conditions.

TURNER’s recent projects Blackwattle Apartments, Boronia Apartments and Bigge Street, uphold the firm’s tenets of providing efficient affordable housing design. The designers outline that successful affordable housing should rely on a judicious allocation of funds, alongside the building easily integrating into the wider community and each apartment providing the chance for residents to personalise their space.

TURNER director Dan Szwaj says that design directly influences the quality of life for affordable housing residents.

“Well-designed homes can improve safety and create a sense of community – whereas housing that is institutional and limits connections between residents and the community leads to crime and social isolation,” says Szwaj. 

Szwaj explained how the concept of ‘blind tenure’ inspires TURNER’s affordable housing projects. 

“Blind tenures means affordable housing projects should look no different to other housing. It should be equal to, or even better than, regular market housing,” says Szwaj.

TURNER overall aims to develop housing that residents are proud to call home.

TURNER designed Blackwattle Apartments.

“We don’t want their homes to have any stigma attached to them,” continues Szwaj. 

The firm’s most recent project Bigge Street reflects this commitment to subverting expectations of what people assume affordable housing will look like. 

TURNER director Stephen Cox says he is frustrated that a large proportion of affordable housing appears out-of-place and disconnected from the surrounding urban landscape.

“It was important to us not lower aspirations of what an apartment building should be, simply because it’s social housing – Bigge Street demonstrates what is possible in a suburban setting while still working with the specific requirements of social housing,” says Cox.

Blackwattle Apartments, developed by City West Housing, offers affordable housing under the Glebe Affordable Housing Project Cowper street redevelopment. This project replaced numerous derelict social housing flats with a combination of social, affordable and market apartments. 

TURNER and City West are joining forces again to launch the Boronia Apartments project in Waterloo which will begin construction in mid-2023. The project will pride itself on providing crisis housing for those in need, with a third of all apartments allocated to women and children fleeing family violence.

City West Housing head of development Lisa Sorrentino says the project is a proactive response to the increasing demand for affordable and accessible housing.

“We have seen an extraordinary amount of people’s situations change with COVID – we also see a lot of families, particularly single mums, that require housing,” says Sorrentino. 

Szwaj reiterates the difficulties in offering high quality amenity for residents whilst also adhering to budget guidelines. 

“If we were to spend money where it wasn’t needed, that would mean less funding for future projects, which could result in someone else missing out on a home,” says Szwaj.

To ensure the apartments in an affordable housing building exude comfort and homeliness, Szwaj recommends prioritising the inclusion of small yet integral features such as hooks, alcoves and bookcases, alongside sufficient amounts of storage and natural ventilation.

TURNER boasts an extensive and acclaimed background in affordable housing projects. In 2009, the team worked on the award winning Telopea Social Housing project, and the practice’s 2014 Washington Park project was an exemplar in affordable and market housing. 

The firm is reassured by the City of Sydney’s views regarding the importance of well-designed affordable housing.

“Affordable housing celebrates the very best parts of our city’s diversity – and we look forward to helping many people access homes they love in coming years,” says Szwaj. 

Photography supplied by Brett Boardman.

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