14 October 2019

A University of South Australia researcher is working with four Adelaide councils to explore a major gap in housing opportunities for older residents. 

Senior Lecturer in Architecture Dr Damian Madigan says new housing forms are desperately needed to allow people to remain in their neighbourhoods as they age, by adapting their homes and embracing a new form of shared living. 

A $74,000 project led by Unley Council will see Dr Madigan work with Unley, Burnside, Prospect and Walkerville Councils to design a multi-generational housing concept in the established suburbs. 

“These suburbs have a higher-than-average proportion of people over the age of 60 who have limited choices to downsize in their current neighbourhoods if their housing no longer suits their needs or if they wish to avoid the empty-nest syndrome of living in a house that has become difficult to manage,” Dr Madigan says. 

The idea is to alter and perhaps extend established homes – many on large blocks – to incorporate other people in a mix of private and shared spaces while still preserving the character of the home and neighbourhood. 

“Through retrofits, alterations and additions, this project will explore a variety of housing options that could suit the needs of older residents who would like to retain their independence but share some aspects of their living arrangements with like-minded others. 

“The co-housing movement is common internationally in new projects and there is increasing anecdotal evidence of older Australians independently organising shared living arrangements that differ from formal retirement villages.” 

The detached single-family home is still a “hugely successful and desirable housing model” but is no longer suited to many sections of the community, Dr Madigan says, with the nuclear family taking a back seat to other living arrangements, including single person households, which are increasing across Australia. 

By 2036, one in three households in South Australia is anticipated to have just one occupant, many of whom will be over the age of 65. 

Adelaide has a predominance of large and expensive housing across the suburbs, with little choice for people wishing to transition to smaller, more affordable and more socially connected housing, Dr Madigan says. 

“Our challenge is to create housing options that sit somewhere between the single-family home at one end of the housing spectrum and apartments and units at the other. Younger home owners looking for affordable multi-generational housing, sharing with older people, would also benefit.” 

Older housing stock in South Australia lends itself to a wide variety of side and rear additions, internal modifications and retrofits, Dr Madigan says. 

“These new housing models are designed to achieve long-term shared goals rather than short-term financial gains. Build-to-rent models can also be incorporated where much of the new housing can be offered as long-term rentals, which is important for older renters who struggle to secure leases beyond 12 months. The ability to offer long-term leases to older renters and to provide greater flexibility for allowing pets is becoming increasingly important. 

“South Australia is an ideal place to establish these new modes of ‘missing middle’ housing. This is an opportunity for us to take a national lead in demonstrating a new form of housing that suits an ageing population,” Dr Madigan says. 

The project, which is due to be completed by the middle of 2020, will deliver a suite of architectural designs and planning strategies and involve workshops with older residents in the four councils to seek their feedback. 

Additional notes

Dr Damian Madigan is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Architecture and Design at the University of South Australia.

The $74,000 project comprises $45,000 from the Office for Ageing Well (SA Health), $12,000 from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) and the balance shared equally by Unley, Burnside, Prospect and Walkerville Local Councils.

Media contact: Candy Gibson office +61 8 8302 0961 mobile: +61 434 605 142

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