In the heart of ultra-hip Brunswick, in Melbourne’s hotter-than-hot inner-north, a quiet housing revolution is underway. It’s the dream of Melbourne architect Jeremy McLeod. Fed up with profit-driven projects and the lack of affordable housing in the inner city, he decided to re-imagine apartment development with an ethical edge.
Mr McLeod, founder of Breathe Architecture, and a group of like-minded architects decided to take matters into their own hands. Enter the Nightingale model. Built around the cornerstones of intentional community, environmental sustainability, and affordability, the model offers owner-occupiers the chance to buy thoughtfully designed apartments for 15 to 20 per cent less than market value.
The prototype Nightingale 1, opened its doors to residents in late 2017. Among its eco credentials, the sustainable building has rainwater harvesting, a packaged heat pump, rooftop gardens and photovoltaic solar. The idea of a ready-made community attracted purchasers, as much as the promise of sustainability and a discount on market prices.
The purchaser group are put together a year before: they go on monthly walk-throughs, have drinks together, and get to know each other’s kids’ names. For instance, purchasers in the group’s newest development, Nightingale Brunswick East, recently got together to watch the slab being poured for their future homes. It’s such a simple initiative, that you know each other before you get the keys.
Every apartment has a covenant to ensure its affordability is passed on if residents sell. A maximum resale price is determined, using a formula based on market prices.
The company’s vision continues to expand, with plans for a village of affordable apartments in Brunswick, known as Nightingale Village. It will have seven buildings, and raise the bar even further – the aim is to supply homes for 30 per cent less than market value, using a German model known as Baugruppen.
Literally translating to "building group", Baugruppen in effect cuts out developers from developments. The idea is that a group of interested purchasers come together and collectively fund their own community housing project. They are often helped or led through the process by architects, and they get a say in what their resulting homes look like. Generally, these homes are far more affordable, have a focus on quality, sustainability and shared community facilities.