The Chin family explain why they’ve opted for an apartment in Australia’s tallest suburban tower

AS you read this article it is evident it is all about ‘Self Interest’ …

OF the developer … the realtors … lawyers … conveyancers … accountants … money lenders … and those seeking to expand ‘their community’ with ‘their needs over and above all others’

DOES High-rise living offer residents a low-maintenance lifestyle? It may in terms of not having to mow the lawn, garden and repairs … But, have they figured the cost of … the strata levy, the lift levy, the pool levy … ?

AND down the track the sinking fund, and legal costs … fees for Engineers, Remediation Builders …

-with 85% of apartments defective on completion

BUT what about the local community who sought to make their home where they could soak up the fresh air of the “leafy east” — but with rapid development, their suburb has become unrecognisable?

they have been robbed; it is not what they bought into!

buildings above 30 storeys; not done in consultation with residents

AND what of the future curse inflicted upon the rest of us for years to come?

Gary Ma, general manager of property developer Ironfish Melbourne said some 70 per cent of his clients were of Asian background

*Jago Dodson, director for urban research at RMIT University raised the following issues:

-why younger people are living in apartments; is it a question of constraint in the sense that they are unable to afford a standard detached dwelling

-governments have left too much to developers who hold the reins; with inadequate infrastructure

AND who will be there to be accountable when, not if, there is a tragedy?

How skyscrapers and high-rises are transforming Australia’s suburban skylines

By Jason Fang,Sean Mantesso, and Erin Handley

17 NOVEMBER 2019

VIDEO: The Chin family explain why they’ve opted for an apartment in Australia’s tallest suburban tower (ABC News)

RELATED STORY: ‘I walked into a country pub and everyone just stopped’

RELATED STORY: Maria and Raul say they live ‘under the dome’ — this is why (THE MEADOWBANK GODZILLAS … another story about how the community have no rights)

RELATED STORY: The fight against ‘rude’, ‘inappropriate’ Melbourne high-rises

EXTERNAL LINK: Use the Australia Talks interactive tool to see how Australians really think

Out from a leafy green canopy in Melbourne’s east looms a sleek, silver skyscraper, jutting into the suburban skyline.

Key points:

  • High-rise living offers residents a low-maintainance lifestyle (?)
  • However some worry skyscrapers are turning suburbia into a concrete jungle
  • Box Hill in Melbourne has seen a number of major high-density developments


It is a development that has divided local residents — but the fault lines are becoming visible across Australia’s capital cities.


The property ideal of a home on a quarter-acre block with a big backyard was once a mainstay of Australian life, but many are now trading it in for the convenience of high-rise living.

But while some say high-density development is the best way to cope with Australia’s urban population boom, not everyone is happy about how high-rises are transforming suburbia.

A majority of Australians (61 per cent) think population growth is a problem for Australia, according to the Australia Talks National Survey.

CAAN: Some reports as high as 80 per cent!

‘A big cruise ship’

A Taiwanese woman with short black hair, glasses, red floral cardigan sits on couch next to bald man with glasses in pink shirt

PHOTO: Marian and Oliver Chin say moving to a high-rise apartment will help them stay independent for longer. (ABC News: Jason Fang)

*Oliver and Marian Chin say they can’t wait to move into their new apartment — located in the 36-storey Sky One tower in Box Hill.

*At 122 metres high, the recently completed development constructed by the Golden Age Group is now the tallest structure outside of Melbourne’s CBD, overtaking Whitehorse Towers which stands at 115 metres high and lives just around the corner.

*Another Box Hill development project, Sky Village — a residential and entertainment complex featuring two 18-storey buildings — is already in the works and being pitched as a “New Chinatown” offering “spectacular views” of Melbourne.

A picture showing a Chinese-style gate made of red lights as people cross roads between high sky rise buildings

PHOTO: The Sky Village development in Box Hill promises restaurants, healthcare and childcare at residents’ doorsteps. (Supplied)

The couple, originally from Taiwan, wanted to downsize from their home in Balwyn, and said their new apartment and location in Box Hill was “second to none”.

“Now I feel very satisfied with this building. And my friends are joking: ‘Well, we are moving into a big cruise ship’,” said Ms Chin, 68.

Living under Sydney’s ‘dome’

Living under Sydney's 'dome'

Welcome to Ryde, where the new realities of inner-city living are colliding with locals who remember life before the rush.

*For the Chins, the move is a chance to foster community, with many of their relatives and family members also residing in the building.

Mr Chin, 72, said as he grew older he wanted to be closer to “handy” amenities like local hospitals, libraries, shopping centres and Chinese grocery stores.

“[We] try to look after ourselves for the rest of our lives, as long as possible,” he said.

“I don’t want to rely on other people. If I live here, I can fulfil that.”

Fears leafy suburbs will become concrete jungles

*But some residents like Angela — who asked that her full name not be included — aren’t happy about having their neighbourhoods so drastically transformed by skyscrapers.

*She said she purchased a home in the Box Hill area to soak up the fresh air of the “leafy east” — but with rapid development, the suburb she idealised is unrecognisable.

A woman with blonde hair wears a dark grey beanie with sunglasses on her head and looks off into the distance.

PHOTO: Angela said she was upset by the rapid developments in Box Hill. (ABC News: Sam Yang)

*“It’s not what we bought into,” she said.

*“Those of us that have been here for a while, we bought because of the area, because it was green and leafy.

*“[There was] fresh air and the kids could play outside and it was comfortable. It’s not anymore.”

A picture of a sign affixed to a fence reading: 'Consult our community. We will oppose inappropriate development'.

PHOTO: The Save Our Suburbs group has hit back at what it calls inappropriate development. (ABC News Sam Yang)

Angela said she was not against development, but having multiple buildings above 30 storeys was “too much”, and was not done in consultation with residents.

“It’s happened very quickly — too quickly. And I don’t think they’ve planned it very well,” she said.

“I know they want to make us the second CBD.

“We don’t have the roads. We don’t have the infrastructure to support that.”

The question of population density and high-rise housing in rapidly expanding suburbs is not confined to Box Hill, with both Sydney and Melbourne expected to tip 8 million people by 2050.


More positives than negatives?

More Australians are living in apartments now than ever before, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 census, which found the number of occupied apartments rose by 78 per cent in the past 25 years.

CAAN: Storey upon storey devilopers make a Motzer … there has been little else available for sale apart from high-rise, with the imminent threat of the Medium-Density Housing Code of terraces, townhouses, duplex, triplex, villas

Buildings stretching 120 metres into the sky in suburbs like Ryde and Parramatta in Sydney — with development rates of 57 per cent and 38 per cent respectively — are transforming skylines.

EMBED: Number of homes completed since 2013

Whitehorse City Council Mayor Sharon Ellis said several high-rise developments had been approved in Box Hill, and more were in the pipeline.

“Look, there is always resistance to any change and any development in any area, quite frankly,” she said.

How do you compare?

How do you compare?

What are Australians really thinking and feeling and how do you compare? Use our interactive tool to find out.

“Parking is one of the problems that people are more concerned about.”

But she said with change came benefit, and that developments could foster growth, boost employment opportunities and improve the lifestyles of residents.

“It is a reality that we have to accept, because our population has grown,” she said.

“We had a leaning towards single dwellings on a quarter-acre block in the past, but the reality has hit home that that isn’t feasible,” she said.

Peoples’ needs have changed, Cr Ellis added, saying younger people gravitated towards apartment buildings —

CAAN: Why have people’s needs changed? Isn’t this about the high immigration and visa manipulation … with 2.2 MILLION Visa holders in Australia currently?

* though some reports suggest young families and millennials do not prefer apartments, and want a backyard.

A picture of a van driving on a street lined with big green leafy trees.

PHOTO: Some Box Hill residents say they moved there because of its leafy-green streets and low-rise landscape. (ABC News: Sam Yang)

*Jago Dodson, director for urban research at RMIT University, said while “we have seen a rise and younger people living in apartments,” it was important to look at the reasons why.

*“We need to understand whether that’s a question of choice — if they’re doing it because they definitely want to live in an apartment, or if there’s a question of constraint in the sense that they are unable to afford a standard detached dwelling,” he said. *

Calls for infrastructure to keep pace with population

Large blue balloons hover over a rooftop pool with a setting sun in the background.

PHOTO: Whitehorse Towers in Box Hill, which is also 36 storeys, was once the tallest building outside Melbourne’s CBD. (Supplied)

*Gary Ma, general manager of property developer Ironfish Melbourne, which jointly built Whitehorse Towers in Box Hill, said some 70 per cent of his clients were of Asian background.

*He said he was not worried his projects would alter the character of the suburb, or would create a monocultural, rather than multicultural, space.

“You can’t stop people liking certain things because we have a different culture,” he said.

“Box Hill has come a long way,” he said, referring to the increasing property prices across the suburb.

A man of Asian heritage with spiky black hair wears a black blazer and stares off camera.

PHOTO: Gary Ma, general manage of Ironfish Melbourne, says up to 70 per cent of his clients are of Asian background. (ABC News: Sam Yang)

He said he was “extremely confident” in planting a high-rise in the “up-and-coming” suburb.

Mr Ma added that constructions like this involved “a lot of thought and planning from the council”.

“The council would not let you do what you like to do if they don’t think they can have the infrastructure to cater for this,” he said.

*But Professor Dodson from RMIT University said developers often held the reins.

“My feeling is that state governments don’t really have a very strong handle on the way that development is occurring,” he said.

“I think they’ve left too much to developers to determine, and we’re certainly not seeing the level of infrastructure provided around the new high-rise developments that we need to in terms of open space.” *

What does it mean to ‘fit in’?

What does it mean to 'fit in'?

When Lily Yan first walked into an Australian pub, locals stopped and stared. But she hasn’t let a few odd looks deter her.

Professor Dodson said the mismatch of expectations between those seeking low-rise living and those wanting high-rise apartments could be “confronting”, but said he would be cautious about making assumptions based on cultural or ethnic lines.

“There’s plenty of people of Chinese heritage who live in detached suburban dwellings,” he said.

“There’s some broader kind of cultural change occurring now that we’re associating with particular migrant groups — that doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the groups that are driving that change.”

He added that the people who bought the properties weren’t always the ones living in them, as some made the purchase to bolster investment portfolios.

While it’s easy to think that a shift into high-rise living is a natural consequence of population boom, that wasn’t the full story, Professor Dodson said.

“We’ve got to realise that the way we plan our cities is a conscious choice,” he said.

The Australia Talks National Survey asked 54,000 Australians about their lives and what keeps them up at night. Use our interactive tool to see the results and how their answers compare with yours — available in English, simplified Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese.

Then, tune in at 8:30pm on November 18, as the ABC hosts a live TV event with some of Australia’s best-loved celebrities exploring the key findings of the Australia Talks National Survey.