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Housing Diversity

Providing a range of residential lot sizes and choice of housing products and tenures helps facilitate housing diversity and choice to meet the different housing needs of the community, including increased residential densities in close proximity to support mixed-use centres, local employment, community facilities and public transport.

  1. Source: Frank L, et al. Obesity Relationships with Community Design, Physical Activity and Time Spent in Cars. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2004;27(2):87-96.
  2. Source: Giles-Corti B, et al. Increasing density in Australia: maximising the health benefits and minimising harm. Perth, Western Australia: National Heart Foundation of Australia, 2012.
  3. Source: Foster, S., et al. (2011). “Creating safe walkable streetscapes: Does house design and upkeep discourage incivilities in suburban neighbourhoods?” Journal of Environmental Psychology 31(1): 79-88.
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Defining 'Housing Diversity'

The term ‘housing diversity’ refers to the range of housing types provided within a development or neighbourhood.  Housing diversity is delivered through the provision of a range of dwelling products and sizes and is usually achieved by providing a wider range of lots sizes and promoting a variety of building forms.  The provision of a diverse range of dwelling styles and densities also provides housing choice and ensures the housing needs of residents at different stages in life and increasingly diverse household types (e.g., young families, professionals, retirees, those with disabilities) are provided and catered for.  By providing a greater housing and lifestyle choice, a more diverse range of people are also attracted to a location.

The provision of smaller lots and locating mixed use lots within and around town centres and public transport stops are also required to achieve sufficient (increased) densities to support these destinations and services which residents can walk or cycle to.   At its simplest, density is a number of units (e.g., people or dwellings) in a given area.  However, there are no universally agreed-upon standard definitions of density, and various professions have applied and defined it differently.  A key area of difference and confusion is in the base land area calculation (i.e., the denominator) and what land is included or excluded. [1]  Within the physical activity literature it has typically been used and applied as a measure of the number of people living in a given area (e.g., population density/acre) or the number of housing units present per area (e.g., residential density/hectare).  

There are many dwelling types:

  • Single dwellings and detached houses, they can be single or multiple storey. An ancillary dwelling can be proposed on a single lot, usually located to the rear of the property and allowing for elderly relatives to be cared for by the family.
  • Survey strata lots are a single lot that has been divided into multiple separate smaller lots. They usually contain a smaller single house known as duplex or triplex units or grouped dwellings. This form of housing is traditionally the second most common form of housing. 
  • Town houses are single or multiple dwellings that are across two storeys or more. They are predominately in the inner suburbs. 
  • Multiple dwellings or apartments are strata title dwellings where multiple landowners occupy separate dwellings within one complex. This form of housing is more likely to be found co-located with high frequency transport or within transit oriented development. 
  • Mixed-use development contains residential and commercial / retail land use. The residential dwellings tend to be multiple unit development with commercial land uses on the ground floor. 
  • There are also a range of specialised housing types, single bedroom dwelling, retirement villages or dwellings restricted to use of those over 55 years and their carers, aged care facilities, residential buildings term accommodation, and holiday accommodation.

Housing Diversity for physical activity & health

A diversity of housing types helps respond to the needs of communities at different stages of the life course [2] and provides opportunities for communities where people can move home without leaving a neighbourhood. [3]  For example, as people age, their first preference is often to stay living in their existing neighbourhoods (i.e., ageing in place), where friends and support networks are already well established. [2]  For older adults, designing and locating safe, affordable, well-connected housing and higher density housing with the aim of facilitating active lifestyles, social interaction, and creating a safe living environment with amenities for daily living is critical.  Smaller, diverse housing types within the development/community will offer this flexibility.  Additionally, older adults, particularly women, are more fearful and more vulnerable to crime thus the design and location of housing is important to avoid people constraining their behaviour.  

The provision of housing density near centres and public transport stops is required to achieve sufficient patronage to support businesses and services.  In turn, these are essential for providing destinations to which residents can walk or cycle.  There is consistent evidence that residential density and mixed-use planning are positively associated with adults and older adults walking. [4-8] Higher densities also generally result in the creation of more compact uses of land decreasing the distances between land uses and destinations.  Proximity to destinations, such as shops and parks, are positively associated with transportation walking in adults, [9-13] and appear to be especially important for transportation walking in older adults, possibly due to their reduced mobility. [14]  The provision of quality housing on smaller lots would also contribute to the sustainability of new communities.  Increasing density, if carefully planned, has the potential to produce numerous benefits to the environment and a range of health outcomes.  

Housing affordability remains a concern for new entrants to the market and those with lower disposable incomes.  Housing diversity can make provision for housing that is more affordable to rent and buy.  Affordable housing should also be located close to amenities such as public transport, employment, shops, schools and services. This be particularly relevant to those who do not own a car.   A diversity of housing types and tenures in new and established areas can help to meet these important equity needs.