Vertical Living and Conflict

Historically most Australians have lived in detached homes. However, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, this is changing rapidly. Australians now also live in apartments, medium density housing and master planned estates.  This increase in higher density living mirrors trends worldwide, where apartment-style developments are common in countries that traditionally favoured detached housing. The greatest increase in apartments is occurring in high rise towers and many residents are finding vertical living poses some challenges, including significant levels of conflict. Apartments require joint infrastructure which may simply be lifts, foyers and stairwells or may also include joint lifestyle assets, such as swimming pools and gyms. In Victoria and New South Wales the legal entity holding the joint assets is known as an owners corporation. Individuals purchase their own apartment and have an interest in shared assets. Legislative governance arrangements require a committee of management to manage the shared assets. Generally, a property manager (owners corporation manager) is employed to manage the legal entity and assets. Conflict may arise over the management and use of shared assets and also the greater density of living including disputes over noise, pets and renters. Arguably, there is a lack of appropriate education about conflict engagement for committees and the property managers who assist in the management of owners corporations. Recently the Victorian government has announced a review of owners corporation legislation.  As part of this the government is considering requiring more of property mangers in terms of education and this change may include compulsory training in conflict resolution.  This may be the first step to better equipping property managers to engage with conflict.  It may also help mangers to develop strategies for conflict prevention due to the building of community and the skilling of committees and residents in this area. With the widespread growth in apartments we need to ensure that conflict is not allowed to fester in vertical communities.  The answer is to train property managers in skilled conflict so they can deal with disputes in a timely fashion.  This will be positively impact on the many Australians who will live in apartments and other higher density developments.

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