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A House For One – the small house movement

With single person dwellings now the fastest growing household type, what will the house of the future look like? Does living alone have to mean apartment living? A demographic shift is under way and more Australians than ever before are living alone — and doing it in suburbs once considered the preserve of the nuclear family.

In actual fact, homes with one and two people are now the majority of all homes and the trend towards proportionately smaller households is likely to continue. Website reports that by 2031, there are likely to be an additional 300,000 single person households in Sydney alone – representing 30 per cent of all households.

Figure 7 from shows changing househouse size

The trend towards smaller households is driven by a few things. One factor is the ageing of the population which tends to result in more single and two person households, and inevitably leads to a greater demand for smaller housing with good access to shops, transport and services; aged care neighbourhoods and villages are an example of catering to these requirements. Increased affluence is another factor driving smaller households; more young and single people are living alone which is a major contributor to the increased demand for housing.

These changes in household type and occupancy rates mean that total demand for housing will be greater than population growth and a wider mix of housing types will be required. The preference of smaller living spaces is already a trend in motion, driven not only by reduced household size but tighter budgets and the need for energy efficiency. Prefab housing is one such reflection of this trend; a low-cost housing option to meet a market which demands scaled down and simplified designs, with environmental considerations and reduced building time, technique and cost.

A Lightwave prefab house

To see where we may be heading, you need only look at Japan, with their car park size housing footprints and matchbox size homes. They have always had to think small due to expensive and scarce land and the downsizing of their ambitions can now be seen on the streets of Tokyo where concrete “microhouses” have become popular among younger Japanese who cannot afford the housing of their parents, or lack the job security to take out a traditional housing loan.

These miniscule homes stand on plots of land barely large enough to park a sports car, yet have three stories of tiny bedrooms, even tinier closets and a kitchen that is more at home on a boat.

Minimalist Small House Design by Unemori Architects

But what they lack in size, they make up for in creativity. The minimalist small house design above is the idea of the Japanese studio Unemori Architects, located in Tokyo. The site measures less than 35 sqm and while this may seem a tad too small, the result is a home of irrestible charm. It’s small size is also crucial for the specific characteristics of this house, including the separation of functions on the various floors with a connecting spriral staircase and and large hinged doors in each room, giving not only an abundance of light, but the feeling of being outdoors. While we may not yet be that short of space here in Australia, we are certainly becoming aware of the practicalities and benefits of keeping things small. So it’s goodbye McMansion, hello cubby house. Written by Anna Laukkanen Source: The Grattan Institute Report – Social Cities March 2012


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