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Bowden residents, Nick Hays and Bonita Mason, smiling and holding up keys to their home on a rooftop balcony.

Adelaide’s first fully sustainable, affordable apartment building Nightingale Bowden has begun welcoming residents just in time for Christmas, marking the successful completion for the landmark project at Bowden.

The 36-home building on the corner of Second and Drayton streets will be certified carbon neutral and exceeds a 7.5-star NatHERS rating thanks to its intelligent design. Half of the one-and-two-bedroom apartments were made available to owner-occupiers as affordable housing through HomeSeeker SA. The other half will be made available as affordable rental properties through Housing Choices South Australia, with those tenants expected to move in, early in the new year.

This unique combination of sustainability and affordability was made possible through an innovative partnership between not-for-profit housing provider Housing Choices South Australia, Renewal SA, SA Housing Authority and not-for-profit, Melbourne-based innovator Nightingale Housing.

The first stage of the development sold out in less than 24 hours with a subsequent release snapped up just as quickly.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Nick Champion said the $13.2 million, six-storey project delivered housing security for dozens of South Australians.

“This landmark project delivers a real mix of affordable housing options for residents in a highly sought-after area,” Mr Champion said.

“Seeing how quickly these properties have been snapped up shows the importance of creating additional pathways to home ownership.

“We want to support more South Australians to realise their goal of long-term housing security in a sustainable environment for the future.”

Nightingale Housing projects are specifically designed to support community connections through shared spaces, with the Bowden development featuring a communal rooftop recreational space complete with barbecue, seating and garden beds. It will be filled out over time with a veggie patch and beehive. The building also includes solar power, rainwater harvesting, extensive bicycle storage and is near shared vehicles.

University lecturer Bonita Mason, who moved to Adelaide from Western Australia in early 2020, said her future had felt uncertain before securing her first home at Nightingale Bowden.

“I was a part-time lecturer at Curtin University so, I could never afford to buy a house and it occurred to me that I could end up without a place to live at some point,” Dr Mason said.

“Someone told me about Nightingale and because I was older than 55, I was able to go in the priority ballot and I got lucky.”

She said she loved the sense of kinfolk Nightingale established for residents, which has included get togethers, group site inspections and forums for residents to chat from the very beginning of the purchase process.

“There is a lot of generosity of spirit, and it’s been a wonderful way to build connections over time and explore how we will live together,” Dr Mason said.

“It’s an animal-friendly development, and a lot of us are into gardening so that’s another point of connection.

“Nightingale is values-based, and it is true to those values. It exemplifies the type of cooperation we need in all sorts of ways as a wider community.”

Image of Nick Hays, sitting on a bench, wearing gray shirt and light coloured jeans and Bonita Mason, standing with her hands in her pocket wearing a black jacket, green top and brown pants. They are both located on the rooftop of the Nightingale building.

Nightingale Bowden residents Nick Hays and Bonita Mason

Fellow resident Nick Hays, 43, said the development spoke to him on several levels after watching friends in Melbourne enjoy the many perks of living in a Nightingale project, including price point, health and environmental advantages and physical benefits such as access to a ground-floor guest house for friends and family.

“I would have absolutely no chance of buying a property in Melbourne or Sydney. I tell my friends in Melbourne who have million-dollar mortgages and their repayments have gone up $1600 since the start of the year, and they fall off their chair,” Mr Hays said of his affordable apartment.

“I’ve been living in a townhouse around Halifax Street, and I really don’t know anyone to be honest. It's very itinerant, there's lots of Airbnbs, lots of students, so I haven't really connected with anyone. It'll be a very different scenario when I move to Bowden this weekend.

“I don't have a car, and I don’t want to have a car so to be able to either jump on the train or the tram or jump on the bike paths is very appealing.

“And the guest house is genius. A lot of homes have spare rooms that are essentially wasted space, so it goes back to the whole ethos of how sustainable this development is. If you don't need the extra space all the time, you can just use the guest house.”

Mr Hays said the ethical nature of the development was also a major incentive.

“The idea that half of the apartments are for Housing Choices clients, so whether that's social housing or people on the NDIS… I think that’s just so excellent and there’s not enough of that being done,” he said.

“Low-income housing is such a problem in this country. If those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to buy a property can somehow support the development, that we can welcome in people who are facing all this structural disadvantage, that's an excellent thing and I really respond to that.

“This is a physical manifestation of our beliefs and our values.”

The one-and-two-bedroom apartments had an average sale price of $366,450 – more than 12 per cent lower than the affordable housing benchmark rate of $422,050 at the time of sale – and a maximum price tag of $400,000. Housing Choices South Australia will own and manage the rental portion of the development, with income-based rent capped at 75% of market rent.

Constructed by builder Hindmarsh and designed by award-winning sustainable architecture firm Breathe, Nightingale Bowden acknowledges the area’s industrial past with a sawtooth profile peeking out above the roofline, and copper motifs across the façade.

Hundreds of construction jobs were supported during the development of Nightingale Bowden and six work placements were created for secondary school students.

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