01 August 2018 15 min read

This article was originally published on Domain.

Inner city residential development over the past decade has been dominated by the apartment market. A quick glance at any capital city skyline bears testimony to billions of dollars invested in multi-storey unit development aimed at a demographic segment keen to take advantage of the inner-urban vibe, with price points varying between high-end luxury and more modest entry level.

Arguably, that skyline shift has been most distinct in Brisbane with 11,000 new inner-city apartments due between now and 2021. At the same time, an urban plan based around designated transport and urban infrastructure hubs has seen further high-rise development on the city fringe.

In order to stand out from the crowd, apartment developers are focusing on quality rather than quantity. Similar qualitative attention is now being paid to a third segment of the residential market sitting in between apartments and detached homes: the townhouse.

Proliferation of the townhouse is down to two factors: an easing of planning restrictions on the size of inner city blocks with potential for sub-division and a continuing focus on the development of inner and outer urban masterplan communities.

Examples in Queensland include developments at West Village, and Newstead, and the much larger masterplan community at North Lakes among those offering ultra-modern town homes off-the-plan.

Domain data scientist Dr Nicola Powell sees advantages in freehold and strata title-linked town homes for those Australians seeking an alternative to apartment living and the more traditional detached house on a suburban block.

Indicative of an increase in the diversity of housing stock, she says the townhouse can offer a competitive price alternative for those battling home ownership affordability, but who don't want to fully downsize into an apartment.

This is doubly advantageous in the Brisbane region, which, Domain figures show, boasts property prices consistently around half of those in Sydney.

"Townhouses do offer a family-friendly alternative at a more affordable price point," Dr Powell says.

"For downsizers, they offer a great middle ground for those who no longer want the upkeep of a home on a large block, but do want more space and privacy than they may get in an apartment."

Dr Powell says townhouses are no longer pitched at entry-level home buyers with many developers now including fittings and fixtures and architectural design standards more closely linked to the luxury end of the housing market. Developers are also catering for families with younger children through the inclusion of common garden or other leisure space.

In some cases there are prices to match, with freehold townhouses, often built on inner-suburban split blocks, netting returns greater than neighbouring, established single dwellings.

Ease of living is top of mind for Jean Smith, 65, who wants to retain all the advantages of a home with plenty of room for extended family to stay over, while losing the disadvantage of having to maintain a house on a large block.

Smith moved from New Zealand six years ago to the award-winning masterplan community of North Lakes, 30 kilometres north of the Brisbane CBD. With an expected final population of about 25,000, it has a major Westfield shopping hub as well as Costco and Ikea, its own business park, schools, parks, a cinema and community facilities, including a day hospital.

"It just provides an excellent lifestyle. Everything you need is in close proximity," Smith says.

North Lakes comes under the ambit of the Moreton Bay Regional Council. Domain statistics show a steady increase in the value of homes year-on-year in Moreton Bay North (2.78 per cent to a median of $425,000) and Moreton Bay South (1.22 per cent to a median of $499,000). This compares to an increase of 0.4 per cent year on year in the Brisbane region to a median of $548,918.

Smith and her 66-year-old husband have bought a townhouse at Vida, which developer Stockland describes as the last residential offering of its kind in the North Lakes Town Centre.

Vida – two-, three- and four-bedroom townhomes offering high-quality coastal-style design by renowned Queensland architects, Hollindale Mainwaring Architecture – has vistas towards Lake Eden and is just 300 metres from Westfield and the bustling town centre.

The architects say the semi-circular pattern of the townhouse layout forms a central park, pool and barbecue area – a community recreational focal point central to the complex.

For Smith it is all about the right place at the right time.

"It felt like a place where we'd like to be," she says.

This article was originally published on Domain.