The McMansion may shrink, but it’s here to stay: HIA

Is the townhouse on the rise?

Is the townhouse on the rise?

The McMansion – a giant contemporary home with all the bells and whistles – still has a place for those seeking “a detached house that was larger than it was 30 years ago”, says the HIA.

But in the absence of reforms to planning regulations and property taxes, which have increased the cost of a traditional home and land combination, more people will look for housing options such as townhouses (from 140sqm to 190sqm) within their budgets.

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Is the townhouse on the rise?

Is the townhouse on the rise?

“If we don’t have reform of the housing system for (urban fringe) greenfields sites we won’t have the same proportion of people living in detached housing,” he says. “It will decline.”

But the economist adds that this does not automatically mean that homebuyers will shift their focus to apartments.

The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures (March quarter) show that 58 per cent of housing starts were still for detached housing while 14 per cent were for semi-detached housing.

Mr Dale says there is a group in the population who would like a detached house but can’t afford it, so they go for a semi-detached home that still gives you three bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. People who don’t necessarily want to live in an apartment will search for an affordable option.

Indeed, some in the construction industry believe Australians have unrealistic expectations of their homes.

After being awarded the 2014 Gold Medal by the Australian Institute of Architects, Phil Harris of Troppo Architects, based in Darwin, said Australians have unrealistic expectations.

“We definitely overbuild,” he said in a recent speech, referring to size, cost and services, and also what we expect our homes to be worth.

Indeed, new Australian homes are already the biggest in the world, rising from 162 square metres in 1985 to 243 square metres in 2013. Big homes located on the fringes our cities also lead to problems for residents, travel times and access to services chief among them.

But Mr Dale says the modern urban fringe home is a reflection of Australia’s greater affluence and the national obsession with our homes.

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“In recent decades Australian living standards have increased markedly, and one manifestation of this changing economic environment has been the demand for larger detached houses. Four bedrooms and two – or at the least, one-and-a-half – bathrooms is now more representative of the norm. The average detached house size increased to peak at an average of around 250sqm, although more recently there has been a very modest decline in that average size.”

The HIA spokesman says while houses have grown in that time, that does mean that the average home size will keep growing.

“Indeed, the average size of a detached house capped out nearly a decade ago and has since been relatively stable,” Mr Dale says. “Households naturally didn’t move from four bedrooms to five, or two bathrooms to three, as being the norm.

“Furthermore, restrictive land supply policies and a trend towards user pays systems for residential infrastructure mean that the average per square metre cost of residential land has soared. As a consequence, average residential lot sizes have declined markedly, creating an inherent limitation on increased detached house size.”

Mr Dale says that while Australians won’t see a significant decline in average house size, there might be a slight reduction (20 to 30 sqm) because of affordability constraints.

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