7 Rules of Better Compact Homes

I  believe there is a need for more compact housing.  I have been advocating such for close to a decade.  The mainstream is now starting to take notice.  There is a potential huge latent demand.

Most of us are approaching mid-age – we see it when we look in the mirror.   The Sandwich Generation.  How to make ends meet; stay in the area we like and accommodate adult children, possibly grandkids and/or aging parents?

Compact housing has strong investment appeal.

Regardless of buyer profile, new compact homes will also need to be affordable and increasingly cater for more occupants.

To that end, compact housing design must be clever in its use of space; finishes; building amenities and services.

My 7 Rules

So, what are some rules to building (and buying) a better compact dwelling?

  1. Space

There are basic human dimensions that can only be compromised so far.  For example, living areas must allow for residents and guests to move around.  One needs to be able to get easily into a bed.  You do need to perform certain functions in a bathroom.

Kitchens need workable bench space and storage options; good lighting and ventilation.

  1. Natural light and ventilation

On that note, natural light and ventilation are very important.  Often, the perception of space is more important than the actual size or dimensions.

  1. Energy efficiency

Also increasingly important, is energy efficiency.  The best way to do that is via orientation, natural light and ventilation.

  1. Storage

Storage is king when it comes to compact living.  The better the storage space, the better your tenant and owner-resident resale appeal.

  1. & 6. Privacy/security and parking

Privacy and security are also important, as, too, is car parking.  Handling parking provisions successfully is paramount. 

  1. Multiple uses

Finally, in our ever increasingly busy and compromised world, our urban space already has multiple uses, and will need to have more in the future.

Multi-functional space will become the norm.  For example, do we really need a full-time dining room?  Yes, we might want a space to entertain four or even six quests occasionally, but not every day or even every week.

Similarly, this applies to the secondary bedrooms.  Why can’t the bed in these bedrooms pull out or fold down from a wall, especially if it is only used on the occasional weekend?

Future proofing

Current trends strongly suggest that we may not be able to continue to afford all the traditional spaces that once made up our homes.

So, we need more compact housing.  And this is especially the case given that most of our population growth is now taking place in just a handful of places.  And this trend is expected to accelerate over the next decade or two. 

Yet, despite this need, too many planning authorities are still stuck in the traditional-based ‘house versus apartment tower’ mindset.

What’s missing

What is missing are housing solutions in-between these two polarised options.  These need to be supplied across much of the Australian fabric and especially in our outer suburbs.

Our experience is that many residents want to ’age in place’.  Most don’t want to live in an impersonal high-rise apartment complex.  They would like to downsize; stay local and have some nexus to the ground.  But in the absence of affordable choice, they stay put, often as a couple or even a single person in large detached homes.

This ‘in-between’ housing would also suit many first home buyers; plus, of course, the rental market.

There is a real lack of new housing choice in the Australian market.  This is stopping many first home buyers.  It is preventing quite a lot empty-nesters from downsizing.  

Until next time,

Michael Matusik

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