Junction Australia is an organisation that knows the difference design can make.
Community service and housing provider Junction Australia designs and constructs public housing, but is determined that its homes look and feel nothing like the stigma-ridden Government housing of the past.
“One colleague was driving past a new development done by another organisation, and they’d done everything right,” says Megan Hayward, Junction Australia’s Manager of Development & Asset Strategy for Housing Services.
“Well – almost everything. They’d used the same letterboxes that has been used for public housing forever and ever, and as soon as my colleague saw that, she thought, ‘people are going to see this and realise immediately this is social housing’.”
While such attention to detail might not be universal, it’s true that Australians often feel they can spot what is sometimes called a ‘trust home’ a mile away. Megan says this can have an isolating effect on tenants, who feel like they’re not an integrated part of the wider community.
So, Junction Australia has begun designing houses differently – inside and out.
“My principle I come back to is, if I wouldn’t live in it and I wouldn’t put my parents in it, then we shouldn’t be putting someone else in it,” says Megan.
“When I first started, we started from the inside of the property. Let’s look at some colour schemes that don’t look like public housing but that meet all of our needs – and we’ve done that and come up with these really contemporary but still practical materials we use in all of our homes.
“So, we’re really about making sure that the things we do promote someone feeling really good about themselves so they are thriving, they feel really great about where they live, they’re really proud of it, and they feel that this is their community.”
Junction’s design-driven approach runs deeper than aesthetics, it’s also about accessibility and creating a sustainable future.
All of the organisation’s new homes are constructed to meet Australian Standard 1428 – a set of regulations that detail how to build-in access for all people, including those using mobility aids like a wheelchair.
“All our new properties are universally designed, so we’re not excluding anyone,” says Megan.
As well as simply being ethically sound and financially sensible – because it allows each Junction Australia property to be readily adapted for new tenants regardless of their needs – Megan says this will help tackle one of Australia’s most pressing problems.
“Without a doubt one of our biggest challenges is our ageing population,” says Megan.
“And one of the biggest reasons that’s a problem is we have been putting people in places – in nursing homes, or if you live with a disability we’ll put you in an institution – when in actual fact what we need to be doing is realising these people are part of our community and that they should be living in our community.
“When we design homes to be 1428 compliant, we’re really offering the opportunity for people to age in place.”
Junction Australia also takes on larger projects, in which they masterplan whole diverse communities – designing them to be safe, comfortable, social, and readily connected to essential services. City Collective has been able to work with Junction Australia to deliver master plans that create integrated places for people.
These differences make them a leader in tackling the affordable housing crisis in Australia, and a leader in improving the lives of individuals at the same time.