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Too many bedrooms?

By johnboy - 24 October 2012 53

big house

Urban Times has a piece on Canberra’s urban design and the ever expanding houses on ever shrinking blocks of land:

This leaves the home building companies two options – to design smaller homes or extra bedrooms- and the latter has prevailed. Over the last twenty years the average floor area of new houses in Australia has increased by 30% and the corresponding reduction in block size is about the same. This has created a very different urban form to the sprawling suburban layout created in the post war period and derided so compellingly by Jane Jacobs in the 1960s.

The difference is that, in the post war version of the suburb, there was at least some semblance of a useable landscape space in the back yard. Today that has gone – replaced by bedrooms and too many of them. But how do we know that there are too many bedrooms and what is wrong with a few extra spaces for the in-laws when they visit for the summer holiday season? From a sustainable city perspective there are two problems that come to mind. The first is that these empty bedrooms sit on top of landscape spaces that could be better used as gardens, lawns, play areas or a chook run, or just left alone, for shrubs, bugs and grubs to multiply. The second is that since the bubble burst in the real estate market, people are buying houses with fewer bedrooms in an effort to reduce their exposure to risk, so houses and units with too many bedrooms aren’t selling.

Your thoughts dear reader?

What’s Your opinion?


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53 Responses to
Too many bedrooms?
1
bundah 9:21 am
24 Oct 12
#

Is it merely a coincidence that humans are also proportionally bigger over the same period.Size is King.

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2
davo101 9:33 am
24 Oct 12
#

They’re called McMansions for a reason. McDonalds food is terrible and experts all agree it is not good for you but it still sells. Likewise with McMansions they sell because that’s what people want. If people are choosing to buy smaller homes, as suggested in the article, then the supply of McMansions will dry up.

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3
Keijidosha 9:39 am
24 Oct 12
#

This is not surprising given that we have created a world of indulgent excess.

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4
LSWCHP 9:52 am
24 Oct 12
#

The huge house trend is even stranger, given that family sizes appear to be getting smaller. I’m one of three children, and that seemed pretty standard when I was growing up. These days one or two children (if any) seems the norm.

I think the planners and developers of the newer suburbs in Canberra have a lot to answer for. The blocks are too small, the houses are too big and the roads are far too narrow. The places just feel cramped and congested. There also seems to be a definite lack of footpaths, parks and communal green space.

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5
chewy14 9:56 am
24 Oct 12
#

davo101 said :

They’re called McMansions for a reason. McDonalds food is terrible and experts all agree it is not good for you but it still sells. Likewise with McMansions they sell because that’s what people want. If people are choosing to buy smaller homes, as suggested in the article, then the supply of McMansions will dry up.

I think it’s more to do with the fact that developers can make more money out of these houses rather than people deliberately choosing to have a McMansion. It’s nearly impossible to find a smaller house on a larger block these days, they simply aren’t there.

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6
johnboy 10:18 am
24 Oct 12
#

the building calculus drives it from my understanding. The more square metres built the lower the cost per square metre.

So why wouldn’t you build as many as possible?

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7
devils_advocate 10:36 am
24 Oct 12
#

johnboy said :

the building calculus drives it from my understanding. The more square metres built the lower the cost per square metre.

So why wouldn’t you build as many as possible?

1) the big-ticket expensive items in a house are wet, plumbed areas with appliances/fittings (kitchen is most expensive, bathrooms, laundry etc). Recently there is a trend towards a higher ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms (i.e. gone are the days of the 4brm house with 1 bathroom, 1 toilet) but once you have a ensuite to main brm and another main bathroom/toilet, you probably only need to add a powder-room for each 2 brms, IMO. So, rooms like additional bedrooms (as well as the garage) are very cheap on a per sqm basis. Expanding the size of living areas is also fairly cheap, especailly if you are going with less expensive floor coverings etc.

2) house prices in general, and likely the size of houses, are apparently positively correllated with willingess to pay (merit good, normal good). Incomes (and credit availability) have increased in real terms, so this has probably increased house sizes. Of course some of the increase in incomes/credit would be captured by higher land prices. Also it is definitely a characteristic of Australians that they spend additional disposable income on housing. Whether it’s a status symbol, simply an obsession with real estate, or some combination of these and other factors I don’t know.

3) For households living in a detached house, it’s probably the norm for 2 adults to each have a full time job (and potentially kids) so I can understand how people wouldn’t have time or inclination to look after large gardens.

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8
Holden Caulfield 10:36 am
24 Oct 12
#

My theory/preference is that space is greatest luxury a home can have, but quantity is not. That is, larger rooms, but less of them is the way to go.

Unfortunately, that’s a view not necessarily shared by the majority and so a 4br house with small rooms will most likely sell for more (comfortably) than a 3br home with larger rooms.

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9
FioBla 10:48 am
24 Oct 12
#

Those houses are terrible!

But I want one. :)

We need higher density living!

For other people.

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10
NoAddedMSG 10:55 am
24 Oct 12
#

There was a recent newspaper (SMH?) which said that in the last couple of years the average size of house being built by developers has actually started to fall a bit.

I don’t think the small block/large house is a problem if you plan well. Look at the bottom part of Franklin – it has some really nice common spaces, and that suburb is going to look really pretty in a few year when the trees have grown. The newer suburbs certainly represent a more efficient use of land than the older suburbs.

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11
arescarti42 11:03 am
24 Oct 12
#

Neat article.

There’s a guy at UC by the name of Andrew MacKenzie who did some really interesting research in to changes in land use in Duffy after the 2003 fires. He found that new houses replacing the ones that had burnt down were on the whole much bigger (which isn’t surprising), but what I found really interesting was the result of interviewing residents on why they built bigger houses. Most of them didn’t actually want or need the extra space, they saw it purely as an investment decision, thinking that bigger houses would sell for more in the future than smaller ones with gardens.

I think the drive for smaller blocks is being largely driven by the ACT government in their quest for easy revenue. They’ve managed to drive the price of land up so far in excess of incomes and debt availability that blocks have to be tiny in order for people to actually afford them. At current land prices, a large 1000m^2 block typical of Canberra’s older suburbs, were it sold today in the outer suburbs of Gungahlin, would cost $600-700k.

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12
Sgt.Bungers 11:04 am
24 Oct 12
#

Whilst our average houses have noticeably been getting bigger over the last few decades; since the 1970’s, the Australian self storage industry has been silently booming as well.

As a nation of capitalists, materialists and consumers, many of us feel like we need more space for all the stuff that we don’t really need… whether that be in the 5th bedroom, or in a $200 per month garage.

Combined with living in an era where “minimalism” is in, many families may prefer to look like they don’t have lots of stuff. A large house helps create that illusion.

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13
DrKoresh 11:04 am
24 Oct 12
#

“The first is that these empty bedrooms sit on top of landscape spaces that could be better used as gardens, lawns, play areas or a chook run, or just left alone, for shrubs, bugs and grubs to multiply”

Oh no, the humanity!
Not everyone wants their own garden and a chicken crap-factory, and I think it’s fair to say that those who do won’t have to much trouble finding a property that suits their needs. Do we really need this moralising article on house-size, for Glob’s sake? I reckon these new places being built, especially in the gray/granite colours like the one in the OP are fugly as all sin, but I don’t think it’s something to start a crusade over. Besides, so many of the lovely old houses in the ‘Berra are heritage listed anyways, so it’s not like they’re tearing down nice places to build these dubious dwellings. Well okay, I can think of a couple of places in O’Connor that went that way, but for the most part these are being built in newer suburbs.

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14
Martlark 11:42 am
24 Oct 12
#

Looking over the fences of houses in my suburb reveals that the majority use their backyards to cultivate weeds, broken cars, piles of junk and falling down garden sheds. Houses are getting bigger because most modern folk have become more interested in inside activities. They need more space for more goods. Expectations of personal space for children and adults have expanded. You also have to take in consideration that cars now take up the space that used to be available on a block for ‘space’. 3 car garages are quite common.

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15
yellowsnow 11:53 am
24 Oct 12
#

NoAddedMSG said :

I don’t think the small block/large house is a problem if you plan well. Look at the bottom part of Franklin – it has some really nice common spaces, and that suburb is going to look really pretty in a few year when the trees have grown. The newer suburbs certainly represent a more efficient use of land than the older suburbs.

Are u serrious? Franklin will forever remain a charmlesss, treeless, grey ghetto with passive aggressive neighbours afraid to talk to each other except to exchange narky, anonymous notes or lodge noise or parking complaints with the police. A social utopiia it is not.

arescarti42 said :

Neat article.

There’s a guy at UC by the name of Andrew MacKenzie who did some really interesting research in to changes in land use in Duffy after the 2003 fires ….

Wow, what an incredible coincidence – Andrew MacKenzie is also the name who wrote the article in the OP. And he also works at UC. What are the chances? LOL

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