Publication Details

Kerr, S., Klocker, N. & Gibson, C. (2020). From backyards to balconies: cultural norms and parents’ experiences of home in higher-density housing. Housing Studies,


© 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Families increasingly make home in higher-density housing, a major transition for low-density suburban cities. Adjusting to everyday life in apartments requires distinctive material and emotional homemaking practices, particularly for families with children. Dominant cultural norms frame detached housing as more appropriate, with apartments merely transitional, or ‘unhomely’ and unsuitable for children. Scarcely has research examined how cultural norms shape parents’ experiences of home in apartments. This paper responds by analysing experiences of 18 apartment-dwelling families in Sydney, Australia. Conceptual influences from emotional geographies reveal the work of making apartments home. While parents associate apartment living with lifestyle benefits, their sense of home is undermined by persistent questioning of parenting and housing choices. Contradictory experiences result in doubt about future capacities to make apartments home. Alongside uncertainty, parents feel guilty about ‘failing’ children through housing constraints and choices. Such experiences signal a need to rethink urban consolidation discourses, planning regulations and building design to better recognise the diversity of apartment residents.

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