The Victorian Government is considering a new rule that would mean apartments have to be bigger than 37 square metres, or bigger than 50 square metres if they have a separate bedroom.
Why would we do it, especially when tiny homes are in huge demand?
I went to look at this little flat in East Melbourne a while ago. A bedsit in a nice location, in a beautiful building, with about 35 square metres of floorspace.
It turned out to be mouldy and squalid, and then sold for $370,00. But I would have happily lived in that much space if properly appointed (although not at that price!).
Is there inherently anything undignified about having one room that operates as bedroom, kitchen and lounge room? It is doubtless less comfortable, but I suspect that it is also true of driving a Barina rather than a Range Rover.
In fact, housing should probably be less regulated than cars. You can’t crash a house into someone else.
The fact of the matter is that small homes may suit many people best, for any number of reasons.
People might feel cosier and more secure in a small house. People physically unable or mentally indisposed to do housework may love them. Environmentalists may choose them because they require less energy to light and heat.
Certainly the single-person household is on the rise in a major way – up to 24 per cent of households from less than 20 per cent 15 years ago. So why would we regulate against small homes?
Part of the reason might be the psychology of decision makers.
People who make laws tend to live in large and charming detached houses. They wouldn’t want to live in a tiny little home. So they imagine they are helping the unfortunate by making sure homes are not small.
Politicians do not tend to live in the following: caravans, boarding houses, cars or under bridges. Lawmakers may struggle to empathise with those people, for whom a real home is a lifelong ambition they may never achieve because it is too expensive.
Very small studio apartments help make housing more affordable in two ways.
Not only do they cost less than a one bedroom house – which could be significant on its own – but they also allow for developers to put more homes on the same space, which increases the potential housing supply.
The worst thing you can say about a “too small” apartment is that they will be hard to sell. That the market for them will be small. That is equally true of a 20 bedroom mansion, and the same logic will apply – drop the price.
If in ten years they prove unpopular, that will actually provide relatively cheap homes near the city, for a small group of people who would otherwise be shut out. I could only support such a policy.