2017 UQ Architecture lecture series: Jeremy McLeod

There is a current housing crisis in Melbourne which is only expected to worsen as the projected population growth of 100,000 per year will put increased strain on the housing market. This problem has been exacerbated since the government has abandoned its social responsibility for providing housing and shifted the responsibility to property developers whose main target is profit and not the people. This is as described by Jeremy McLeod, director of Breathe Architecture in Melbourne and who also heads the Nightingale Housing not-for-profit organization whose aim is to provide affordable sustainable housing through architect-led residential property developments. Looking to change the way the housing market is provided through a triple bottom line investment he discusses the processes and the outcomes learnt from his inaugural project Nightingale 1 in Brunswick Melbourne and his endeavour to push these ideas to the mainstream housing market.

There is a current housing crisis in Melbourne which is only expected to worsen as the projected population growth of 100,000 per year will put increased strain on the housing market. This problem has been exacerbated since the government has abandoned its social responsibility for providing housing and shifted the responsibility to property developers whose main target is profit and not the people. This is as described by Jeremy McLeod, director of Breathe Architecture in Melbourne and who also heads the Nightingale Housing not-for-profit organization whose aim is to provide affordable sustainable housing through architect-led residential property developments. Looking to change the way the housing market is provided through a triple bottom line investment he discusses the processes and the outcomes learnt from his inaugural project Nightingale 1 in Brunswick Melbourne and his endeavour to push these ideas to the mainstream housing market.

The Nightingale model of housing developments is based on a democratized capital which aims to create affordable housing. The decision makers in the current housing market are the financiers and they set the goal posts. The housing developers set the market trends and stock and dictate the price of property and the driver for them at the end of the day are the profit margins. There is the danger of residents themselves not keeping with the Nightingale model looking for profit themselves. The success of the building whilst a great tool for pushing this type of development into the mainstream it has put the aims of community and long term ownership and affordability at risk.

It is admirable to see architects taking the lead in housing developments with the passion to create an urban environment that is socially, economically and environmentally responsible. But how do we make this the mainstream so developers are on board to think beyond profit? There is demand and growing awareness for building in a more sustainable way however this is still only at grassroots (and middle class) level and yet to find mass appeal.