In the comments on Hockey Does it Again Jumpy commented that
first home buyers should start at the lower end and work up.
However, this is easier said than done. This post looks at some of the things that are stopping people from doing this and some of the innovative things that might help people start at the low end if they were allowed to.
Firstly, some of the stoppers.
I lived in a two bedroom garage for most of primary school while the family got the poultry farm going and the house built. My mother talked about the period as being some of the best years of her life and I rather liked living on a farm with tidal creek access to Lake Macquarie.
But if we wanted to do something similar now anywhere in the Brisbane council area? We would either be blocked by council rules or some covenant that the developer had put on the block when it was sold. Rules and covenants aimed at maximizing rates and developer profits (“This is a high class development that justifies the rip-off price and high rates.”)
Linked to this are rules about minimum block and dwelling sizes. Sizes that are unnecessarily large for the needs of a single person (or couple without kids) and rules that stop people using a low cost, temporary dwelling that can be easily sold and moved when people can afford the mansion.
Secondly, what about some of the more innovative approaches?
Shipping container houses: Google “Container Houses Australia” and you can come up with something like 2 million hits. This link gives examples that range from simple single container buildings like this basic unit. A unit which should be easy to move at some later stage and able fit on a very small piece of land:
Then there are more elaborate things like this one below and beyond that are meant to be more permanent and impressive:
Container homes are gaining popularity for a number of reasons:
- Cost: Container homes can cost less than $30,000, rather than the hundreds of thousands or even millions for a typical suburban home.
- Style: “We can sit these $180,000 container homes … beside a multi-million dollar home. You wouldn’t know the difference,” Brad Lyons of Container Homes Designer Domain has previously told Domain.
- Environmentally friendly/weather resistant: “Structurally strong and weatherproof, shipping/freight containers are an ideal base from which to construct a habitable space, without placing the same burden on the environment as conventional construction methods,” the Cube Modular Homes website points out.
- Time: “Construction time on-site can be as little as seven days to fully weatherproofed condition,” says New Zealand–based Addis Containers.
- Footprint: Having a smaller footprint means container homes are lower-maintenance, require less energy, are more flexible in where they can be built and minimise waste compared to traditional homes and construction methods.
If I had to live in places where class 5 cyclones are a possibility a properly tied down container might be a good place to be.
See here for standard shipping container sizes.
Tiny Homes and Units: Gizmag top 10 tiny homes provides a feel for some of the possibilities. It is all about using innovation to fit a practical dwelling with full facilities on to footprints as low as 8 m2. Smarts like putting the bed on to the top of the wardrobe (At the height of the top bed of a double bunk.) Furniture that can be moved or folded away depending on time of day, And….
This is a picture of a two story home that comes with a 9.2m2 footprint. (And yes, the stairs need a safety rail.)
The Sydney Morning Herald said recently that the minimum unit size allowed in Sydney was 40m2. Seems unecessarilly generous after reading about micro homes for a while and seeing what can be done with a small space.
NOTE: Some people with limited budgets may prefer to live in a very small dwelling in a location where they really want to live rather than something more spacious in a less attractive location.
Designing for a flexible future: My wife and I live in a 4 bedroom home with the kids long gone. We like where we live, but, if we were stuck for cash, would be interested in selling off part of the home . Problem is that the house wasn’t designed to be split once the kids had flown.
People are starting to talk about designs that start small, grow as the family grows and then split into separate homes after the kids have flown. Alternatively, a home might start as a number of independent units that can be combined via a very secure connections when required and then be disconnected again into multiple independent units when the kids are gone.
Should minimum block and dwelling sizes be smaller? Yep. My take is that the standard block size should be much smaller than they are now. Small to the point where someone who wants to build a McMansion would have to buy a number of adjacent blocks. Something similar might be done with unit sizes including buying and connecting a number of adjacent units if something larger is required.
Conclusion: The rules need to be challenged if we are to get more affordable housing. It is not just about negative gearing.
See also earlier post: Hockey does it again