Brand new TBS Writer Rachel Reistma offers an alternate route around the housing affordability crisis.
The Australian Dream for the longest time has been to own a three bedroom brick house in the suburbs with a double garage and a large backyard, but this dream is quickly disappearing in our current climate. Australian house prices are among the world’s most expensive when measured against incomes and rents. With Joe Hockey recently announcing that Australians should get a well paid job in order to be able to afford a house, it looks like the average Australian is stuck in a rut, but do we really need to spend money to be able to live comfortably? Do we need to place so much value in bricks and mortar? Do we need to have our work/life balance out of order so that we have a roof over our heads?
Maybe the Australian dream needs to change and evolve, rather than blaming economics.
Australia is one of the hottest and driest continents in the world with one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world, but we were colonised by Britain so we live, today, in a very British style. Australia has been built up with paved streets and English style houses with pitched roofs, small windows and brick walls. This infrastructure and development was built in order to have a managed landscape; to keep out the cold weather and to make snow fall gently off the top of their houses. This style does not suit the hot, dry summers of Australia or its precious soil, so why are we still building them after 200 years of colonisation? Architects and social research show that we, subconsciously, have a connection the style of house in which we grew up, and we want to maintain that feeling of home for our own family. This is why the housing companies continue to create the same design, year after year, as there is still a strong demand.
Just contemplate; what if Australia was colonised by Spain instead? Imagine the white-washed stone buildings reflecting the hot sun that would dot our landscapes. Imagine the courtyards that would create cross-breezes and a refreshing space for twilight dinners. Imagine the extensive use of tiles that are cool under the feet and a thermal mass in the winter.
Around the world, the housing market is changing rapidly. The major trends in Europe, America, China and Japan are eco-friendly houses, which mean smaller environmental footprints, using recyclable materials like shipping containers and having flat roofs where there can be houses placed on top of large buildings and gardens blooming. Another fast-moving trend is the return to kit homes or panel homes, which are installed efficiently and designed to fit in with the environment. This is a solution for first home-buyers who want to build quickly and start small.
The housing market is driven by the consumers. We, as consumers, need to stop being led by outdated homes that are not suited to the Australian landscape and start thinking outside of the three bedroom box. We need to consider how we want to live. If no-one buys the overpriced, large British style mansions in the suburbs, and instead starts experimenting with small, eco-friendly houses, the market will respond. There is the opportunity to have comfortable, efficient housing. Joe Hockey needs to know that we don’t want to give up our passions and family and friends just so we can afford to pay off a house in Sydney. There just needs to be less concern with money and more concern with living. Less concern with how to make mortgage repayments each month and more concern about how to make a home in the environment around us.