"Apartments are not suitable for raising families" - oh really?

Monash University's Dr Bob Birrell gave that quote to The Age, in full:

''Apartments are not suitable for raising families. There's a plenty of alternative options outside the apartment stock for people who are thinking about or who are raising a family,'' he said.

''All of the demographic data we have indicates there's a tiny minority of families and it's very unlikely to increase much.''

In an Australian context, this may be the case (despite the Age article linked above being an anecdote which refutes the quote), if we broaden our horizons slightly, crossing to the North East corner of the Pacific and bypassing the United States, we arrive at Canada.  Vancouver? no keeping moving eastwards flying over Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg and then you arrive at Canada's largest city of Toronto.

Toronto & Melbourne are about the same age ("York" 1793, Melbourne 1835), have similar populations (Toronto 5.6million, Melbourne 4.1million (both 2011 figures)), both have Victoria-era street grids with tram networks left in tact and have a heavy focus on heavy rail as the prime transport mode moving people in and out of their respective dense cores.

Where similarities end and quite a large divergence becomes evident is dwelling stock and urban corridor densities.   Dr Bob Birrell states apartments are not suitable for families, many in Toronto would seemingly disagree and thanks to Stats Canada's extraordinary breakdown on households with different dwelling stock dimensions, we can see the following numbers.  Click each image for larger view.

The number of people in Toronto CMA (Census Metropolitan Area) living in apartments in buildings with fewer than 5 levels.

The number of people in Toronto CMA living in apartments in buildings with 5 or more levels.

I'll make it simple for everyone - there are 350,000 people living in households with kids in high-rise towers and a further 128,000 people living in households with kids growing up in apartments in buildings with fewer than 5 levels in Toronto.  

I'd like to see Dr Bob Birrell, from the Centre for Population & Urban Research, make the same case to those households in Toronto - a city which is on so many levels is our peer in North America - how apartments are not suitable for families.

Lead image credit: Jasonzed on

Development & Planning

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 12:00
The swirl of development activity in Footscray has found another gear as new projects are submitted for approval, or are on the verge of beginning construction. Two separate planning applications have been advertised by Maribyrnong City Council; their subsequent addition to the Urban Melbourne Project Database has seen the overall number of apartment developments within Footscray in development swell to 40.

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00
The marriage of old and new can be a difficult process, particularly when the existing structure has intrinsic heritage value. In previous times Fitzroy's 237 Napier Street served as the home of furniture manufacturer C.F. Rojo and Sons. Taking root during 1887, Christobel Rojo oversaw operations though over time the site would become home to furniture manufacturer Thonet.


Visual Melbourne

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 07:00
The former site of John Batman's home, Batman's Hill is entering the final stages of its redevelopment. Collins Square's final tower has begun its skyward ascent, as has Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter Commercial and Residential precinct already. Melbourne Quarter's first stage is at construction and involves a new 12-storey home for consultancy firm Arup along with a skypark.

Transport & Design

Friday, December 15, 2017 - 11:00
Infrastructure Victoria unveiled a new round of research into its larger programme of work dealing with managing transport demand. The authority contracted Arup and KPMG to produce the Melbourne Activity Based Model (MABM) and while it is new, it is considered fit for purpose in the strategic context.

Sustainability & Environment

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00
Cbus Property's office development for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street in Docklands recently became the first Australian existing property to receive a WELL Certification, Gold Shell and Core rating. The WELL rating goes beyond sustainable building features with a greater focus on the health and well-being of a building's occupants.