Bayswater Women’s Housing 2, an apartment complex developed by Women’s Housing Limited in collaboration with Urbanxchange to house women at risk of homelessness and family violence, won the Social Infrastructure Development of the Year award at the 2020 Urban Developer Awards for Industry Excellence.

Designed by ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects, Bayswater Women’s Housing 2 is a four-storey, 24-apartment development built adjacent to an award-winning 2012 apartment complex with shared basement car parking facilities. Available in one- and two-bedroom configurations, the apartments offer abundant natural light and ventilation, 2.7-metre ceilings, and generous living spaces, balconies and storage as well as spectacular upper-level views to the Dandenong Ranges.

The 6.6-star NatHERS rated building also combines Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) features and a robust façade of metal cladding, masonry and pre-cast concrete to maximise comfort for residents and minimise maintenance costs. ESD features include an embedded energy network, solar power and hot water, no gas, double glazing with thermal breaks, masses of insulation, cool-coated roof, reflective film on exterior windows and thermal-rated internal blinds.

According to Women’s Housing Limited asset and development manager Paul Ryan, the hardwearing exterior helps save on long-term maintenance cost, which is an important factor for the not-for-profit. The materials palette needed to combine durability with great aesthetics, which was also achieved in the project. Based on regular feedback from tenants who sought ample storage and a feeling of spaciousness throughout the apartment, the design incorporates features such as generous joinery, ceiling volumes and living areas that open onto large private balconies.

“We could perhaps have got more apartments in here, but it’s better for tenants to enjoy the added comfort of those larger balconies,” Ryan explained.

Bayswater Women’s Housing 2 consists of 6 one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units with tenants paying a rent that doesn’t exceed 30 per cent of their income. “Even a really spacious apartment on the top-floor with amazing views is capped at 75 per cent of market rent,” Karen Janiszewski of property consultants Urbanxchange said.

A small office in the building allows Women’s Housing Limited’s housing manager and family violence support worker to deliver on-site assistance and programming. The tenants represent a mix of women aged over 55 who were previously at risk of homelessness due to lack of affordable housing as well as younger women, mostly with children, who have left violent home environments.

Housing manager Priya Anbazhagan says this support is crucial in helping residents address trauma and stabilise their lives in a safe, supportive environment. “Many of the women were living with the perpetrator, some had literally nowhere else to go, and most had children – some of them infants, some toddlers. So for them it’s a godsend to have safe and secure accommodation and a forever home,” Anbazhagan said.

“The women have established themselves and they’re happy here. We’re located in the heart of Bayswater and there are nearby schools, childcare, shops and transport. The children have stability and they can go to school safely. It has definitely changed their lives. A couple of the women have started part-time jobs. One is studying. Their mental health has improved a lot. They’re able to concentrate on whatever it is they want to do with their time – hobbies, studies or community activities,” she added.

Describing the Urban Developer Award as a testament to the strong collaborative relationship that underpinned the development, ClarkeHopkinsClarke project leader Amos Matteri said, “We have a great relationship with Women’s Housing and Urbanxchange, and they’ve been very successful projects.”

Partner Toby Lauchlan, who heads ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s multi-residential sector, says his team is currently working on a number of diverse social and affordable housing projects, aiming to raise the bar on both architectural quality and social impact.

“We’ve got some really interesting projects underway, from key worker housing to a contemporary take on rooming houses and a townhouse-style apartment development for Indigenous residents with a particularly strong landscape narrative. They’re all very different, but they share a need for high quality, robust, sustainable homes that tenants love, in great locations where residents can access everything they need and establish themselves in their local communities.”

Photo credit: Rhiannon Slatter