Why Smaller is Better
In Australia, affordability, has historically been heavily influenced by land supply. Australian cities generally had cheap and plentiful land supply to build houses, and government planning encouraged houses to be built in suburban regions.
Additional to a lack of demand for higher density dwellings, the economics of these residences has also simply not added up for developers or owners, except in a small number of inner city areas with high land values.
Transport infrastructure has for the most part serviced many suburbs quite well, particularly through the expansion of the metropolitan road networks with new highways and freeways. However, from the mid 2000s, fuel prices began to increase sharply – up 78% from June 2003 to June 2008. This led to concerns about car expenses, and public transport usage surged in response, reducing the appeal of those suburbs serviced mainly by auto transport.
In contrast to the period up to the early 2000s, the last few years have also seen changes in planning policies, most notably a reduction in land supply and increasingly significant stresses on infrastructure; particularly road congestion.
These issues were most obvious firstly in Sydney, but now Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary has been extended several times to satisfy a greater than expected demand, and similar indicators are beginning to appear in Brisbane.
As a result of this continuing expansion of suburbs, the stresses on infrastructure and services, and the costs of transport from the suburbs, government policy is beginning to turn. Combined with a healthier public attitude towards the greater affordability of higher density living, and the amenity benefits of an inner urban life, new opportunities are presenting themselves.
An Innovative Journey
Faced with these statistics, In 2009, two men, Kevin Doodney of LJ Hooker Land Marketing and Brett Blacklow, Director of architectural and construction firm, Earth Spirit, set about designing and building an affordable house and land package for $300,000.
The challenge was to design one that was liveable, stylish and sustainable. This 'liveability' meant optimising the residence for comfort and tending towards Australian lifestyle elements and not merely functionality, which 'affordability' often impacts on.
With land costs approximately half of the proposed budget, the home needed to cost under $150K, meaning the lot size needed to be small. They ultimately decided on 10m x 30m or 300m².
When building any home, particularly one as innovative as The Smarter Small Home™, it is required to go through council's strict building regulations and can take up to five years or longer before final approval. Aware of this, Doodney and James Hardie® agreed to build the Smarter Small Home™ in an aircraft hanger in Brisbane, where it could immediately be showcased without this wait time.
Together, Doodney and Blacklow successfully created an affordable home that, although compact, still incorporated all the elements of a home demanded by the majority of Australians including: a traditional backyard, an indoor-outdoor layout, it was energy-efficient, low in wastage and was Australian-made.
Launched on the 27th March, 2009, The Smarter Small Home™ was quickly identified by industry experts and consumers alike as a very viable solution to the property affordability issue and many builders and designers began using it as a platform for their own small lot designs.
The Smarter Small Home™ Case Book
The Smarter Small Home™ Case Book, featuring houses inspired by The Smarter Small Home™ was published in March 2010. You can read more about some of these designs here -