‘Back to the Future’ for Townhouses

In April of this year the McKell Institute published a report entitled “Homes for All”. It outlined a number of recommendations to address the housing supply and affordability crisis that is evident within our cities. The strategies identified were wide ranging, included alternative funding initiatives, changes to government policy, the need for planning reform, and the need for a new civic dialogue; however, one reoccurring theme was the need to rethink the type of housing that is provided, and specifically, the benefits of reinventing the housing type that has served us so well in the past – the terrace house, or townhouse. As the report states “It’s good quality design, liveable, sustainable and more affordable.” Townhouses offer a housing model that can easily integrate into established residential areas, avoid expensive new infrastructure, and most importantly, meet the needs of the singles, couples and families that occupy them.

The advocation of the townhouse model is paralleled in a report released in 2011 by the Grattan Institute (http://grattan.edu.au/publications/reports/post/the-housing-we-d-choose/). “The housing we’d choose” report explored the relationship between the existing supply of housing and the type of housing that we would prefer to live in. It identified a significant shortage of townhouses, and a shifting preference away from traditional detached houses. Changing demographics, economic conditions and lifestyles are rendering detached houses less attractive, and shifting the focus to townhouses.

In the past 4 years we have designed over 1000 townhouses, in development sizes ranging from 2 to 500. The terrace model of housing presents unique design challenges, specifically the integration of multiple dwellings into attractive and cohesive neighbourhoods. These projects enable us to engage in design at an urban scale as well as the detailed level of producing liveable homes and spaces.