There are different types of people in this world. Some of us prefer tea, others coffee. Some say tomahto, others say tomato. Some like Apple, others prefer Android.
And some of us like living in the suburbs, with a house and big backyard, while others prefer living in the city, with an apartment and their favourite coffee shop within spitting distance. Which group do you fall into? Don’t know? That’s okay, because we’re here to help you make up your mind.
Odds are, most of you reading this grew up in a house in the suburbs with a backyard, a bunch of neighbours, a push bike and a dog. Sound about right? Traditionally, Australian’s have migrated to the ‘burbs when families come along, and it’s where the majority of us used to make our homes. But that trend is changing. Though most people still live in separate houses, the percentage has fallen from around 86% in the 80’s to just 76% today. That trend doesn’t show any signs of stopping either.
But why is this? Why are we abandoning the traditional dream of a white picket fence for the cosmopolitan glamour of the inner city? It has a lot to do with the changing demographics of our country. People these days are getting married later, having less children, having them later, and are generally trying to extend their youth as long as possible. This means more young people are moving into the city where they can rely on a lively social life, plenty of things to do and a wealth of services within walking distance.
But that doesn’t mean a house is just for old fogies who have forgotten how to have fun and just want to while away the years until they can finally move into a nursing home. The majority of people still live in houses, and they’re still the best choice for a huge number of people, if not most. So which is best for whom? And where should you move yourself?
During the drab years of 60 and 70s architectural design, an apartment block was one thing: a monolith of brown bricks with a few pokey windows. They were depressing, they were prison like and they certainly were not cool. They were for people who simply couldn’t afford anything else. They may have attracted a certain subset of society: the intellectuals and art types, but they weren’t a mainstream option for most.
That has changed. Modern apartments are all about convenience these days, but they have taken on more personality. Modern apartments have bigger balconies and windows, more luxurious facilities and a hell of a lot more street cred. Living in an apartment is hip, it’s convenient and usually, it’s pretty fun.
Apartments suit a wider range of people than they ever have, hence their increased market share, but there are people to whom they’re particularly suited. Singles and couples without children, young professionals and people who want in on the inner city lifestyle without spending millions on a place to live are the sorts who want to live pancaked on top of one another.
Apartments are like lifestyle construction sets: you can mix and match the things they offer to suit what you need. Gyms, swimming pools, coffee shops, restaurants; many apartment blocks have all these facilities and more, and you can take advantage of them, or not, as you please.
Home is where the heart is, and in the past most of us have put our hearts in the suburbs. Separate houses with yards are the most common form of dwelling in this country and have been for many years.
Living in a house is desirable because it really feels like it’s yours. You’re not sharing your building with dozens or other people, you don’t have to worry about the person above you blasting NWA at one in the morning, there’s space for your dog out back, for you kids to roam (somewhat) free and for you to indulge in other outdoor pursuits.
For families, a home in the suburbs is still the dream. Suburbs have facilities for children such as playgrounds and skate parks that you just don’t find in the city, and the entire atmosphere is just more kid friendly. Plenty of kids have grown up in cities over the years, but suburban living is still where most want to rear their families.
Where is it all headed?
Is the trend towards apartment living going to continue into the future, or are we going to shift back towards suburban living? Hard to say, really, and it doesn’t make that much difference as to which lifestyle is right for you. Who cares about trends when it’s your future and your life that you’re trying to sort out?
That said, there’s no harm in looking at what people are probably going to be doing in 5, 10, even 20 years time. As Australia’s population expands, people who want to live reasonably close to the city are going to have to settle for an apartment. Most Australian cities are quite sprawling, but there’s only so far this can continue until the commute becomes prohibitively far. For this reason, apartment living really only has one way to go: up. Fitting hundreds of people into an apartment is simply more efficient than fitting just a few people into a house, while taking up a similar amount of land. In extremely dense cities such as New York apartment, or at least townhouse, living is the norm. While Australia might have a long way to go before we reach such a situation, our cities will inevitably move in a similar direction as they become denser.
In a more environmentally conscious world, yet one with an ever growing population, apartments have another advantage. Land developments for suburban homes inevitably have to erode the wilderness and habitats of our fellow creatures. Being able to fit more people into smaller areas is going to become more of a priority as ecological living concerns take over.
All things considered, homes and apartments offer different advantages for different people. For the young, the upwardly mobile and the socialites among us, apartment living has a lot to offer. However, those of us with families and those who value their privacy and independence might find their niche in the suburbs instead. There’s no right or wrong answer to the question ‘which is better’, but there is a right and wrong answer for you personally.