Our Story

Urban Villager was born in 2020.  

After eight years of building a sustainable real estate development company, and watching as the housing affordability crisis worsened, we wanted to do more on the affordable end of the spectrum.  

Sustainable housing is crucial. However, with the current system, it’s out of reach for most people, and especially those renting.  

And with more and more people moving into cities, more people renting, the continuing eradication of green spaces, the erosion of community, and the increased cost of living, we felt like we could, and should, be doing more.  

We build from renewable materials, and build in a low carbon, thoughtful and considered way.

We focus on affordable living, not just a cheap build price – meaning we design for energy effeciency, passive heating and cooling and homes that last. We’re big fans of solar energy.

We love urban gardens, both for beauty and for practicality. we enable residents to grow food and share resources. We have productive and biodiverse wall and rooftop gardens, flowers, air cleaning plants and native bees.

We create smaller and more diverse options so that people can rent what they need now, and not have to pay for space they don’t need.

We share resources (like gardens and living areas) to make it cheaper for everyone.

We manage our co-living and single lease options ourselves, with integrity and kindness.

We partner with not-for-profit organisations so people have support when they need it.

We set the scene for community resilience and encourage people to look out for each other.

There is a huge need for well located, affordable, sustainable and beautiful housing.

The vacancy risk for us is low.

The retention rate is high.

People feel safe and secure – there’s no owner/renter argument.

Smaller spaces and co-living increase the yield per square metre while decreasing costs.

The sharing economy, combined with biophilic design, means people are happier (not just happy) with less.

The returns keep giving.

So, we took a bold step.

We threw out all of the established rules about how and why real estate development is done the way that it’s done, and we started again with a simple question  

If we started with people-first design, what would be different?  

If we built housing where the most important thing was the happiness, health and wellbeing of the people living there, what would it look like?  

Secondly, how would we make that a sustainable, and even regenerative, building, not just during construction, but on an ongoing basis 

And thirdly, how could we make that financially viable, so that the solution could be scaled?  

Those questions took us around the world. We visited the happiest country in the world and looked at why they are so happy. We went to the USA and looked at their multi-family housing models. We looked at eco-villages around the world, we went to the Global Wellness Summit and looked at wellness architecture, and we’ve been to (and spoken at) the Asia Pacific Impact Investment Summit.  

The number one thing that happy people have in common are strong social connections.

However, the single-bottom-line real estate development system in Australia
doesn’t value community at all.
The way that we have been building housing is making us sick, stressed, isolated and unhappy.
The housing in which we live, and the community in which we participate,
is responsible for 80-90% of our health outcomes,
and those outcomes are getting worse.

The good news is that wellness lifestyle real estate
(or, what we like to call ‘Urban Villages’)
can be planned, designed and built to optimise our wholistic health and wellbeing

Fixing the built environment can help to combat the global health epidemic and rising costs.
There are tangible benefits to wellness-focused built environments that
trigger an upward spiral of both positivity and possibility.

Here's what we found.

And that’s what we are doing.  

More space doesn’t make us happy. Social connections make us happy, and so we design our buildings with spaces designed for interaction, as well as the private sanctuary of home (think green rooftops, with sunny washing lines, native bee hives, and vegie plots).  

Feeling empowered to be part of the solution makes us happy, and so we proudly incorporate and display sustainability into our communities. Think solar panels, big rainwater tanks, and natural shade.  

Feeling valued, respected and listened to makes us happy, so we’ve become our own landlord for our build-to-rent communities, where we believe that long-term renting should be respected as a valid lifestyle choice. Think great communication with the building owner, the ability to personalise your home, and secure, long-term housing.  

A diverse community makes us happy, and so we’ve got diverse housing options in each community. We focus on less private space in favour of more shared spaces. Think beautiful, functional, light-filled studio and one-bedroom apartments, filled with greenery.  

We don’t have enough options like this in Australia (where we’ve been taught that ‘normal’ is a three-bedroom house or bigger!), and to create an affordable, sustainable and joyous way of life, we need to create them.  

It also makes financial sense: if people are living in a beautiful space, within a great community, that is secure (because it’s not a for-profit investment to be sold when the market is hot), then tenant turnover is going to be lower. When we retain a building, and we’re the ones paying the bills, we create a strong financial case beyond the moral responsibility to build an efficient building that has low running costs. Also, we can show that a wellness community is valued at 10-25% above a comparable, non-well community.  

It’s a win/win/win for people, the planet, and the investors.  

The key to this is doing things in a new way with patient investment capital with democratised catalytic capital. We don’t believe that real estate development should be trapped in the hands of the elite few.  

That’s why we’re partnering with the impact investment community, where the triple bottom line is valued.  

Radical problems require radical solutions, and if radical means building better buildings, designed for long-term happiness and long-term community, we’re happy to be radical in our approach to real estate.  

We hope that you can join us along the journey.  

With hope for a brighter future,  

Alice & Tibor  


Urban Villager 2020