"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

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