The demand for pet-friendly housing in Sydney

Four-legged friends are considered the essence of home to many, but if the owner can't afford a house with a backyard, the idyllic scene of man's best friend fetching his master's slippers is often preceded by years of heartbreaking apartment hunting.

Although renters have it worst (tick the box "pets allowed" in an online real estate search and watch your options shrink to one or two), strata by-laws and strict body corporates have historically made it almost as hard for buyers.

More than 2 million people in NSW own, live in or manage apartments and Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. Strata laws have become a major issue in recent years as more pet-owning Australians buy into apartment life.

Dog lover Gabby Isaacs recently moved to Melbourne but for years she struggled to find a home with her furry friend in Sydney. She was eventually accepted along with her toy poodle Sadie, but then it took her 21 months to find a pet-friendly apartment in Victoria.

"I know someone in Sydney who used to hide her toy poodle, Stella, in her bag going in and out of the building."

Isaacs says most of the pet owners she knows consider their companion animals to be "healing" and therefore integral to their wellbeing.

"My friend found out she was suffering from anxiety so her doctor wrote her a note and then she was allowed to have Stella live with her in her apartment."

Strata laws have become a major issue in recent years as more pet-owning Australians buy into apartment life.

Strata by-laws and strict body corporates have historically made it hard to find pet-friendly apartments. Photo: Michele Mossop

Daniel Trelease, a buyer's agent at Cohen Handler and proactive animal welfare advocate who lives on the Woolloomooloo wharf, has both personal and professional experience when it comes to pets and the home.

"I have a small cavoodle," he says. "I've had bigger dogs in the past but Sydney is incredibly difficult for pet-friendly properties. Most buildings are against pets because of the noise. Where I live now is not pet-friendly but I've found ways to be able to keep my baby here with me."

As a buyer's agent, he says 25 per cent of his clients make it their primary request to find pet-friendly homes "which makes it very difficult".

"Most have been disappointed in the past and that's why they engage us for help," he adds. "As a result, these kinds of properties become hotly contested in the off- and pre-markets. These pets are part of people's lives. They help the elderly, the disabled, those who live alone."

He agrees that pets can benefit mental as well as physical health and regularly suggests his clients try to get a doctor's note, "but it doesn't always work. They usually have to be a deemed a 'medical dog'."

The NSW government is moving towards more relaxed by-laws that permit pets in apartments as a default. "I genuinely believe it will only become more lenient over the next five years," says Trelease.

There's a need for more pet-friendly homes. Photo: Stocksy

Real estate agent Charles Touma, who has sold many apartments in the pet-heavy area of the inner west, says it's no longer so "black and white", with more buildings subject to application and case-by-case strata approval, but he argues that if you've got a big dog you shouldn't be looking to buy an apartment.

"There are less opportunities with a small dog and even less when it's big, but you need to understand it's going to make things more challenging - that's the law of the land."

Many pet owners are loathe to accept this fate and some developers are catching on to the demand for pet-friendly apartments. Ocean in Sydney's Narrabeen and Springbank Urban Village in Townsville, Queensland, both marketed themselves as pet-friendly when they launched a few years ago.

The latest development to advocate pet ownership is One Sydney Park, its site literally embedded into its namesake 44-hectare park and due to be completed in 2020. Sydney Park, which will surround the apartment buildings on three sides, is one of the most heavily used dog-walking parks in the city.

At ground level, two-storey Park Terraces will each have a garden with access to the park. For singles with a dog, the one-bedroom apartments on the second to fourth floors will have large balconies and the same easy access.

One Sydney Park in Alexandria has been positioned to specifically welcome pet owners. Photo: One Sydney Park

"There's not even any crossing of roads," says Laraine Sperling, marketing consultant for the HPG development. "It's just through the precinct, out the door and off they go."

Sperling is a dog owner herself and has been taking her "excitable" one-year-old boxer Rexy to Sydney Park every weekend in the name of research.

"I talk to locals - there are so many amazing and interesting dog owners and families around. We're all very passionate about this project. It's been positioned specifically to welcome pet owners. And while strata ultimately controls what happens in terms of pets, we're not going to start with limitations."

Going as far as proposing One Sydney Park-branded doggy bags and coordinating park-based dog trainers for the residents, Sperling says promoting pets is part of a bigger drive to create a community that reflects the needs of the local demographic.

"There are so many people who have pets in this area," says development director Barney Oros. "There's been a real trend of people asking if they can have a dog or cat since we opened for registration. You just have to walk through Sydney Park and you see - people really value having pets as companions."

Our four-legged friends might just have found themselves a veritable pet paradise.

This story The demand for pet-friendly housing in Sydney first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.