Over the past decade, Australia’s mainstream media spun propaganda claiming that Australians are “choosing” high density apartment living over detached housing due to its convenience. We were also frequently told that changing lifestyles has meant that most Australians do not want a large backyard.
I have always claimed that this notion of Australians “choosing” to live in apartments is false, and that most Australians would prefer to live in a detached house with a backyard. However, the exorbitant cost of land has made detached housing unaffordable, thus forcing people to live in apartments.
The arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic has comprehensively dispelled their propaganda.
With many of us quarantined, our homes served not only as places of shelter and refuge, but also as workplaces, schools, gyms, theaters, restaurants, and parks.
Those like me living in a traditional detached house with a good sized backyard coped relatively well, with our homes meeting all of our basic needs. We have extra rooms for a home office. We have a dishwasher, washing machine and internet. We have areas in which to exercise, get fresh air, be alone or together. And we have space to store grocery supplies.
By contrast, shoe box apartments were never meant to be used multi-functionally beyond basic shelter. These apartments offer none of the above advantages. Instead, they wrongly assume that people want to live most of their lives outside in public parks, restaurants, bars and laundromats. And these assumptions were destroyed by the COVID-19 quarantine.
For those crammed into shoe box apartments, many experienced living conditions more akin to a prison.
With this background in mind, it is no surprise that a new survey from Westpac reveals that 77% of Australians yearn for a spacious house with a backyard:
With Australians juggling work, school and family commitments under a shared roof, the research found spacious living is now top of the agenda; a third (34%) want to live somewhere less populated, one in three (31%) want to be closer to either parks or shops, and one in five (20%) are seeking suburbs with larger properties.
Outdoor features like a backyard (27%) and entertainment area (18%) are also now considered more important because of COVID-19. When it comes to being indoors, having a separate study area (20%) and large kitchen (15%) topped the list.
Anthony Hughes, Westpac’s Managing Director of Mortgages said Australians have spent this time reflecting on their living space and how it will meet their future needs.
“For many of us, staying home for an extended period has changed how we use the space we live in, whether that’s home schooling from the kitchen table or setting up a makeshift office in the lounge room,” he said.
“Our research suggests that this has started a behavioural shift in what Australians want in a home, with people now seeking more space outdoors, proximity to parks and beaches, and even larger properties.
“We are also seeing people wanting their homes to cater for both their professional and personal lives, with one in five Australians wanting a separate study as more businesses adapt to working remotely…
Australian homeowners are less likely to prefer higher density living in a post-pandemic world, with more than three quarters (77%) saying they would now prefer to live in a house because of COVID-19. This is compared to 22 per cent who sought a home in an inner-city or urban area back in 2019.
Sadly, a return to mass immigration will stifle these dreams.
This ‘Big Australia’ policy has already seen the nation swell by 6 million people since the turn-of-the-century, with most of this growth occurring in Sydney and Melbourne. Moreover, our major capital cities are officially projected by the ABS to roughly double again over the next half-century as Australia adds another 17.5 million people through immigration:
The situation is particularly dire in Sydney, which is a key immigration magnet and the most land constrained. According to projections from the Urban Taskforce, apartments will make up half of Sydney’s dwellings mid-century, whereas only one quarter of Sydney dwellings will be detached houses:
That’s the death of The Australian Dream right there.