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THE COST OF HOUSING: MORE THAN JUST DOLLARS

Abstract
By : R.J. Fuller and U.M. de Jong

 
Australians were recently awarded the dubious honour of building the largest homes in the world. Our new homes are now seven percent larger than those in the United States and nearly three times larger than those in the United Kingdom. At the same time, the price of an average residential property is now five times what it was 20 years ago. Although incomes have risen over the same period, they have not kept pace with rising house prices. In terms of disposable income, the cost of housing has almost doubled. While traditional housing affordability is measured in terms of house prices and incomes, a broader and more encompassing perspective also indicates that we can no longer ‘afford’ to build houses as we have done in the past. The environmental impact of modern Australian housing is significant. Australians have resisted the need for increased urban density as their capital city populations grow and new houses have been built on the outskirts of the existing cities, encroaching on the greenwedge and agricultural lands, destroying and degrading existing fauna and flora. The houses built have increased carbon emissions because of their size, embodied energy and reliance on the motor car. This paper discusses the environmental ‘affordability’ of current Australian housing and argues that this must be considered alongside traditional affordability criteria so that a more holistic approach to the issues is adopted.
Keywords:Housing, Australia, Environmental Affordability

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