Local action – Transport Newsletter #21 – Housing obesity
By guest author, Stephen Ingrouille, Principal, Going Solar
Reproduced with permission from Transport Newsletter #18, 23 April 2007, www.goingsolar.com.au
The Victorian Planning Minister, Justin Madden recently â€œflagged a competition to design smaller, more energy efficient new housingâ€ which led to Herald-Sun front page headlines: â€˜Your Homes Are Too Big and â€˜Madden Swipe Sparks Outrage.
â€œâ€˜Melbournes household growth â€“ and by that I mean dwellings â€“ is twice the population growth, Mr Madden said. â€˜Our increasing affluence has led to bigger houses, and Im sure youre familiar with the description McMansions, and one of my favourites, housing obesity.â€ [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 â€“ something to do with taxation? â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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]:
â€œâ€¦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.â€
Perhaps this highlights market failure, where some live beyond their means and we fail to account for greenhouse gases and pollution.