ARM Architecture and Launch Housing partner on Australian-first housing for at-risk women and children.

A new $30 million build-to-rent project designed to support at-risk women and children has been completed this month, becoming the first of its kind in Australia.

Known as Viv’s Place, the building will provide permanent housing with wrap-around support services to provide a fresh start for up to 60 women and 130 children escaping family violence and homelessness. Viv’s Place is designed by renowned architects ARM Architecture for Specialist Homelessness Organisation Launch Housing. The project is the shared culmination seven years of research and consultation informing the end result.

The housing is designed around a unique accommodation model, tailored to supporting women and children, giving access to skills classes, healthcare and legal practitioners that are on-site, with permanent and specially designed rooms for ongoing consultative care.

“The brief was developed in collaboration with Launch Housing through detailed engagement to work out how the building would be used and how best to cater for the needs of tenants, in particular, those who have experienced trauma” says ARM Project Architect, Jessica Heald.

Designed with these residents in mind, the project aims to reset the thinking of what Australian social housing can be and questioning the assumptions of what people need most from apartment living. Based on an intelligent operational model, and working to tight budgets, the project seeks to be generous or abundant in every sense – spatially, functionally, aesthetically, communally. A building that can be both safe and sanctuary-like, beautiful and proud.

The building steers away from habitual apartment design through wrapping exteriors and interiors with materials, patterns and colour that are more in the tradition of the home – terracotta tiles, coloured wall-papering, wrought iron lacework, fencing and garden motifs.

“Given the clientele for this building, we have designed a vibrant colourful, patterned building, which deliberately moves away from social housing models that are austere and institutional in both appearance and function,” says ARM Director Andrew Lilleyman.

“The building really takes on its own identity. The design replicates motifs are intended to emphasise a space of sanctuary – spaces within, which harness and develop growth and prosperity.”

Alongside 60 generously sized apartments, some with dual-key access for large families, the project employs trauma-informed design principles with the inclusion of communal spaces and amenities designed as an extension of their apartment. These residential themed spaces promote connectivity and comfort between occupants, while at the same time promoting a sense of home and safety.  This includes a communal lounge, family games area, a range of children’s spaces as well an outdoor terrace and garden.

“We looked at models like the Sugar Hill project in Manhattan, which was one of New York’s first displays of social housing that sought to incorporate programs for its residents,” says Lilleyman.

“The shared recreation spaces encourage residents to connect with their neighbours, and the range of services and classes have been incorporated to assist in finding wellness and confidence once again,” says Lilleyman.

On moving in to Viv’s Place, one mother describes her family’s first night as the first time her son had ever slept through the night. She compared the apartment to sleeping on a cloud, because it was so quiet and comfortable.

Launch Housing Chief Executive Officer, Bevan Warner added:

“There is nothing else like this in Australia, and we are pleased to be able to work with ARM Architecture to provide a prototype for future social housing establishments that steer away from institutional design,” says Warner.

“Poverty and family violence are constant pressures that push many women into the impossible position of raising a family without a stable home. From the first day families move into Viv’s Place, they have a safe and permanent home to recover and rebuild, access to the support they need and the opportunity to put down roots and participate in the local community.”

“Solutions like Viv’s Place are critical to breaking the cycle of intergenerational homelessness and giving children a strong start in life. At Viv’s Place, children are supported to attend school, maintain healthy relationships with family, friends and community, and lead a happy and healthy life. We hope Viv’s Place becomes the first of many of these kinds of holistic housing and support models that are so desperately needed across Australia.”

Forty percent of the project has been supported by the Victorian Government, with remaining funding donated through the philanthropic community and individual donors – including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Shine On Foundation, Ian Potter Foundation, Gandel Foundation, as well as the Friday family of Melbourne.

This collaboration between ARM Architecture and Launch Housing complements their partnership for the Bellfield Social Housing Project, located in Melbourne’s west, which is slated for completion in September 2023.  ARM Architecture has further been appointed as the architect for a new general social housing project, as part of the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Fund and is slated to commence later this year.

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