Consideration for children in city planning

According to a new study from Deakin University, apartment buildings must be introduced to family-friendly design guidelines, with the number of families living in high-rise apartment buildings increasing, along with potential health risks to children.

The study, published in July 2018 in the journal Cities & Health, is the first to examine how the rapid increase in ‘high-rise’ parenting is impacting on Australian children’s health and development.

The most recent statistics show 79,000 Australian families live in high-rise apartments – classified as dwellings more than three stories tall – an increase of 56 per cent since 2011.

Lead author Dr Fiona Andrews, a Senior Lecturer in Deakin’s School of Health and Social Development, said the issue was these homes were typically designed for young professionals or empty nesters.

“The needs of Australian children in the planning of cities are not being properly considered,” Dr Andrews said.

“Australia currently has no explicit child-friendly policy on high-rise, private housing, and the new Victorian Apartment Guidelines contain only one reference to children, in relation to accessibility standards.

“Adopting explicit family-friendly design guidelines for high-rise inner-city housing, which has been done in comparable countries like Canada, is critical to improve the health and development of children raised in these types of homes.”

The recent Deakin study asked ten families, residing in apartments in the City of Yarra, to reflect on how their development and neighbourhood had a positive or negative impact on raising preschool aged children.

Dr Andrews said the City of Yarra, a local government area in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs, was chosen due to its growing number of high-rise dwellings, making up 37 per cent of housing stock in 2016 compared to six per cent five years earlier.

“The Australian Early Development Census also suggests a decline in child health across the City of Yarra, with 11 per cent developmentally at risk children in 2012, increasing to 16 per cent in 2015, which runs contrary to Victorian and Australian trends,” Dr Andrews said.

Negative health implications identified in the study included the safety risks of windows, balconies and car parks, along with exposure to sunlight, noise and places to play.

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