What Is The Solution To Affordable Housing? Garden Studios

A solution to affordable housing in this country does exist. In fact, it would be true to say that it has existed for decades.

In the 1950’s, a fibro shed filled the additional accommodation need for a growing family. That’s because the quarter-acre block was so poorly designed. A two-bedroom, one-bathroom abode was supposedly all that a family needed back then.  

But growing families were often forced to build an uninsulated fibro shed at the back of their properties to cater for their new additions.  These poorly built, un-insulated buildings (that we later learned were made of asbestos) were what the planners of the time came up with. You either adapted to the cold and damp in those sheds or endured winter with Kleenex boxes. Influenza must have been rife, unless you believe they were made of stronger stuff (and I can’t imagine anyone of that generation denying that either).  It was a wretched solution to the problem of space. A valueless, inappropriate composite structure to house the next generation of Australians.

Modern Struggles: The Millennial Housing Crisis Unveiled

Today, if the statisticians are right, 35% of young adults will never own a home in this country.  Affordable housing is so acute that young Australians (at least some of them) have decided that a home is not a priority. I imagine couch-surfing, shared living spaces and extra flatmates have become the norm. People will be forced to find solutions that are often the opposite of what the planners and the bureaucrats foresee.

There’s a practical solution to the millennial housing crisis: every suburb in Victoria has space for the traditional granny flat. State government legislation and a vague interpretation of the planning code obstruct the use of vast, unused spaces. For example, our recent application to Kingston City Council for an 80-year-old lady’s Dependent Person’s Unit faced an unexpected hurdle. Despite approval for a bathroom and kitchen, the council denied a second sink essential for a washing machine. When I asked the planning officer if he believed the elderly lady wouldn’t need to wash her clothes, the council echoed their position three times over the phone. It prompts the question: why choose a parrot when real people could better understand our community’s needs? I even suggested the alternative of the elderly lady sending her garments to a laundry!

NSW and Queensland: A Granny Flat Haven

In NSW and Queensland, individuals are allowed to construct and rent out granny flats/studios. The title plan consolidates both buildings into one, and splitting titles is not permitted. Rates are levied for the entire block, playing a crucial role in reducing housing pressure in these states.

But the nanny state in Victoria prefers you to buy an apartment or a house because Daniel Andrews thinks you have $713,000 (the median house price in 2016). That’s a lot of dough in any part of the world. The developers’ lobby has left a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the party offices of both the Liberal and Labor parties in Victoria. Three million three hundred thousand crumbs in 2015-2016 alone, and I doubt the granny flat policy will ever change. We will grow sideways and upwards through re-zoning, but never where it benefits the homeowner and the home-poor millennial.  

Homeowners are unlikely to ever form a group and lobby State government like developers do. Perhaps a “get up” campaign might work.