Australia should consider child-friendly design guidelines for high-rise housing developments.

Take note: Policy makers, town planners, architects, developers, body corporate associations, maternal and child health providers.

Our study explored how parents experience raising children in private, high-rise housing in one Melbourne inner city municipality. We used a method known as Photovoice, which allows study participants to tell their experiences through photography. Ten parents of preschool age children photographed their housing, capturing elements they perceived to have positive or negative impacts on raising young children. The parents then participated in individual and group interviews about their photographs and key themes were developed. 

We already know: Housing design and conditions play an important role in children’s health and development. Australian cities are changing, with increasing numbers of families raising children in new, private, high-rise housing developments.

Despite this, much of this housing has been developed for residents without children, so little is known about how families experience these settings. Unlike the situation in several Canadian cities, currently there are no specific child-friendly guidelines for the design of high-rise housing in Australia.

What this study adds: Our findings provided a detailed insight into the everyday issues for families. On the positive side, inner city, high-rise housing provided an affordable option for families to live close to parents’ employment. However, parents also identified design elements of their housing that had potential for negative impacts on their children’s health and development. These included; safety of windows, balconies and car parks, along with exposure to noise, limited access to sunlight and places to play.

Implications for city policy and practice: Our research may help explain parents’ dissatisfaction with raising children in high density areas reported previously and could form a platform for further research on declining child health outcomes in the municipality studied.

More broadly, developing explicit child-friendly design guidelines for high-rise, inner city housing (such as those implemented in several Canadian cities) could help to improve the situation for families raising children in this kind of setting. 

Full article: High-rise parenting: Experiences of families in private, high-rise housing in inner city Melbourne and implications for children’s health

Authors: Fiona Andrews, Elyse Warner and Belinda Robson
City Know-how editor: Marcus Grant