Architecture gong for social housing

The property on Hemmings Street has good airflow and sunlight. Picture: Kennedy Nolan

By Danielle Kutchel

A Melbourne-based architecture firm has received commendations for their work on a Dandenong social housing project.

At the 2020 Victorian Architecture Awards, announced in a live broadcast on Friday 10 July, Kennedy Nolan received commendations for their work on Housing Choices Australia’s 6 Hemmings Street property.

The firm’s submission to the awards notes that “the brief was to provide safe, quality, affordable housing for people who are struggling to find a home in Australia’s challenging private rental market.”

Patrick Kennedy, director of Kennedy Nolan, said the firm had worked with Housing Choices Australia for many years and felt they could create something unique in the Hemmings Street building.

“We feel that the architecture often provided in this sector … can stigmatise the residents,” Mr Kennedy said.

“We felt we would have something positive to add in making the best possible building for social housing and making people feel proud of where they live, while they deal with other issues.”

The architects designed the property to make residents feel “safe and dignified” while to an extent breaking down social stigmas, Mr Kennedy said.

They also aimed to design a building that would help create a community, he added.

The building has good access to sunlight and fresh air, storage space and is accessible for people with disabilities.

Mr Kennedy said the firm took what they knew from designing high-end residential buildings and applied it to the complex, using natural materials, textures and colour to create something that feels domestic rather than institutional.

He and his staff are “delighted” to have received the award.

“It’s an endorsement of the quality of this building. We feel like we have achieved something new in this sector,” he said.

James Henry, General manager property development and asset management at Housing Choices Australia said the organisation had been looking for a “high level of design” to improve the existing housing stock and create a safe, unified community when they engaged Kennedy Nolan.

“We increased the density significantly on the site with much better-quality units,” he explained.

Housing Choices Australia is looking to continue to expand their housing stock, with their eyes on a neighbouring property.

A proposal to convert a car park at 2-4 Hemmings Street into affordable housing was shot down by Greater Dandenong Council in April, over concerns about crime in the area.

Mr Henry said Housing Choices Australia did not believe the project would have contributed adversely to the area.

“We’re a highly regulated not-for-profit organisation and we provide high quality dwellings – this award is recognition of that.

“We’re really conscious of the role our dwellings play in transforming places and ensuring a high level of amenity is provided to our residents and the wider community.”

Nationally, HCA has a portfolio of about 7000 dwellings.

Your first stop before buying a home. View the whole picture.