LIV­ING LARGE IN SMALL SPA­CES

The Weekend Post - Real Estate - - Front Page - AN­DREW WIN­TER

BUILD small, live tiny.

Ap­par­ently if you con­sider that an at­trac­tive hous­ing op­tion, or you sim­ply want less square me­tres in ex­change for qual­ity, cen­tral lo­ca­tion or view, you are no longer al­lowed to make that de­ci­sion be­cause our state gov­ern­ments be­lieve size, or lack of it, is po­ten­tially the source of a poor qual­ity hous­ing prod­uct.

My opin­ion, as some­one that spent many years work­ing in the cen­tral Lon­don real es­tate mar­ket is, sorry NSW, you are com­pletely wrong.

Ac­tu­ally, lenders have this rather bizarre size ob­ses­sion too.

Cre­at­ing le­gal blan­ket style min­i­mum sizes for a stu­dio, or one, two- and three-bed­room units is about as worth­while and de­sir­able as a leather bound, hand stitched ejec­tor seat in a he­li­copter.

It sounds great un­til you con­sider the prac­ti­cal­ity.

I do un­der­stand why this leg­is­la­tion has been im­ple­mented.

There is a gen­eral mis­con­cep­tion that if a prop­erty is too small it will not be an at­trac­tive place to live. That sim­ply is not the case. I pre­sume the aim is to avoid cre­at­ing the slums, or other un­de­sir­able and un­liv­able hous­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion of the fu­ture.

But, such dic­ta­to­rial leg­is­la­tion will not have the de­sired ef­fect; the same old mis­takes will con­tinue to be made, just a bit big­ger.

Con­sider who would buy or rent and live in a stu­dio or a one-bed­room unit. It would be a sin­gle per­son, maybe a cou­ple, in maybe their first home.

It is a chance to get on the prop­erty lad­der, or a good value rental op­tion to avoid shar­ing.

If the prop­erty is too small for their par­tic­u­lar needs they will not buy, rent or live in it – that is called mar­ket forces, but it gives the public choices.

Why do we need the gov­ern­ment telling us we have to live in more space?

Op­tions to build smaller can equate to a chance for peo­ple to be able to af­ford some­where of their own or in a lo­ca­tion more de­sir­able for them.

Ban­ning small does not aid the af­ford­abil­ity cri­sis in any way; in fact it makes it po­ten­tially worse.

Leg­is­lat­ing and fo­cus­ing only on size does not stop the na­tional ob­ses­sion with high rise unit build­ing, apart from when you are young, hol­i­day­ing or af­ter a pied a terre, who do you know that wants their full time home to be in a high rise?

Yes there are a few I ap­pre­ci­ate that – a niche mar­ket – yet Mel­bourne, Syd­ney, Bris­bane, the Gold Coast and oth­ers all think it is great to build more high-rise units for over­seas buy­ers and mis­guided in­vestors to sink their money into.

Cre­ative for­ward think­ing and in­no­va­tive de­sign is what is needed.

If a devel­oper is seek­ing ap­proval for their scheme, why on earth can­not the floor plans of the scheme be con­sid­ered on their own merit?

Rooms can be small pro­vid­ing they func­tion cor­rectly and in my ex­pe­ri­ence have suf­fi­cient ac­cess to nat­u­ral light and some form of as­pect; these el­e­ments are more vi­tal for the well be­ing of a res­i­dent than ar­gu­ing over a few square me­tres.

Let great de­sign reign, let nat­u­ral light be para­mount, as­pect con­sid­ered and cease think­ing build­ing to the sky in all our cities is the only op­tion.

I re­call in my early days of UK real es­tate in the mid ’80s – sur­prise, sur­prise there was a hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity is­sue then – the mar­ket and de­vel­op­ers were al­lowed to ad­dress the is­sue. One ma­jor house builder de­signed a cre­ative an­swer and in­tro­duced a two-storey house de­sign built in clus­ters of four; each one-bed­room home mea­sured no more than around 45sq m.

Not only did buy­ers and ten­ants adore their own front door, they ac­cepted this space and this con­cept worked.

It cre­ated af­ford­abil­ity and a home peo­ple wanted to live in for a cer­tain stage of their lives. Three decades on they are still a pop­u­lar hous­ing op­tion.

Dear gov­ern­ment, is it not about size, it is about in­no­va­tion, live­able de­signs, light and al­low­ing de­vel­op­ments to be con­sid­ered in their own right.

A tiny stu­dio in the outer sub­urbs is quite sim­ply point­less and should not be per­mit­ted, but right in the heart of the CBD, why not?

Pic­ture: THINKSTOCK

THINK BIG: The fo­cus should be on de­sign, not size, when it comes to clever plan­ning for city apart­ments.

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