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Local action – Transport Newsletter #21 – Housing obesity

Posted in Research, Uncategorized by Ferne Edwards on June 1st, 2007

By guest author, Stephen Ingrouille, Principal, Going Solar
Reproduced with permission from Transport Newsletter #18, 23 April 2007,

Housing Obesity
The Victorian Planning Minister, Justin Madden recently “flagged a competition to design smaller, more energy efficient new housing” which led to Herald-Sun front page headlines: ‘Your Homes Are Too Big and ‘Madden Swipe Sparks Outrage.

“‘Melbournes household growth – and by that I mean dwellings – is twice the population growth, Mr Madden said. ‘Our increasing affluence has led to bigger houses, and Im sure youre familiar with the description McMansions, and one of my favourites, housing obesity.” [ref Mary Bolling, urban affairs reporter Herald-Sun 17/5/07].

Of course the Minister is right, particularly in the more affluent suburbs where typically houses are getting bigger – something to do with taxation? – while family sizes are shrinking. In some of the fringe suburbs, where the McMansions must be expensive to heat and cool, some families cant afford to fully furniture the houses – except of course for the essential (and energy hungry) plasma TV. Apparently, with the Federal Government Baby Bonus there was a sharp rise in the sale of plasma TVs – just whats needed when we are trying to reduce greenhouse gases.

There is another side to housing obesity and that is garage obesity. Should we be planning for 3, 4, 5 + garages? Surely land has more value than for parking cars? Let alone the extra pressure such cars add to our roads. The Herald-Sun editorial on the same day [17/5]:

“…there are people who live in some very big houses who take exception to the term obesity. They argue that in a free market, if they have the money they are entitled to build them as big as they like.”

Perhaps this highlights market failure, where some live beyond their means and we fail to account for greenhouse gases and pollution.

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