OPINION: Why building and owning big homes is not sustainable

NUMBERS DON'T ADD UP: "The average Australian home size has doubled in size yet the average number of people per house has halved to 2.6 people per house."

NUMBERS DON'T ADD UP: "The average Australian home size has doubled in size yet the average number of people per house has halved to 2.6 people per house."

THE debate about how so many Australians are missing out on home ownership assumes a century old definition of the home.

A hundred years ago there were 5.3 people on average per home. Today the average Australian home size has doubled in size yet the average number of people per house has halved to 2.6 people per house.

In effect, Australians are living in houses with four times the area of their predecessors. This is not sustainable as house prices escalate.

We need another model for how we live that can be afforded by most people and I believe this is a blended model of owning the core bits of a home and renting the extra amenities when you need them. Many people in Australian cities are already living the reality of the new version of home ownership.

The new mode is apartment living where you own your piece of the total but pay a fee to access, or rent, the add ons. So instead of having your own swimming pool you can access a shared pool. The same applies to lifts and lobbies and stairs and gymnasiums or the local restaurant or coffee shop.

Collaborative economy expert Rachel Botsman has written about the swing from hyper-consumption where a family must own everything including three cars and a swimming pool to co-operative consumption where a family shares the park or the swimming pool.

Botsman explains that the average amount of time an electric drill is used by a family in a year is nine minutes. Why own one? Surely it is better to hire one when you need it.

The same model makes sense for car-sharing services like Uber when compared to car ownership with minimal use. Similarly, Airbnb shares housing more effectively. The number of empty bedrooms across the state must be enormous as proud home owners collect extra rooms.

The current discussion at all levels of politics about housing affordability needs to ask a serious question. Are we living beyond our means in aspiring to a mini castle for all families?

The major cities of the world are dominated by apartment dwellers in smaller homes but they share amenities around them.

We must move the debate in Australia about falling home ownership away from thinking we all need our own “castle” to a more co-operative way of living where we own a small home and share all the amenities we aspire to with our neighbours.

LETTER: SUPER IDEA TO HELP OUT FIRST HOME BUYERS

CONTRARY to John Hewson's thinking, there is no logical reason to separate the issues of superannuation and housing. First home buyer housing is a matter of priority and, if superannuation can assist, then well and good.

The proposal to enable first home buyers to accumulate a 20 per cent housing deposit by matching personal savings with personal superannuation savings provides increased security and is a sensible objective.

Home ownership is good for social cohesion. The higher the level, the greater the number of people achieving financial independence and the lower the requirement for social security expenditure.

Home ownership and superannuation should be further entwined by banning superannuation funds from being able to borrow to purchase residential property. More homes will then be available for first home buyers.

Graeme Troy

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop