From backyards to balconies: Exploring parents’ experiences of home and belonging in apartments

Ms Sophie-may Kerr1

1University Of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


As Australian cities rapidly densify, more Australians are housed in higher density environments. This shift towards apartment-living represents a major transition in Australian cultural housing norms and requires new material and emotional negotiations. This is particularly so for families with children who are increasingly occupying high density spaces – whether out of preference, convenience or constraint. While more families with children now live in apartments, dominant discourses continue to frame detached housing as the appropriate place to raise a family. Apartments are viewed as a transitional housing form that is ‘unhomely’ and unsuitable for children. Little is known about how these cultural norms influence parents’ experiences of home and sense of belonging in apartments. This paper responds to this gap by drawing on semi-structured interviews with 18 families living in apartments. A focus on the emotional terrain of parenting reveals that their feelings of belonging and home are fraught and contested. The findings capture the uncertainty families feel about their housing futures, highlighting tensions between cultural norms, that are frequently internalised, and shifting urban landscapes. The interviewees’ experiences signal a need to rethink public discourses and apartment design in ways that recognise that diversity of those who call apartments home.


Sophie-May is a PhD candidate in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities at the University of Wollongong. Her research explores the lived experiences, practices and emotions of families living in apartments.

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