Posts Tagged ‘population density’

The Perth skylineIf swearing doesn’t raise too many eyebrows in polite Perth society, there is one thing that will – the admission that you choose to live in a city centre apartment block.

Anyone who has watched Neighbours or Home and Away will have an image of what the average Australian house looks like. In most British TV series, the homes are far grander than the average person can afford. But in Perth, the average home really is that big.

Perth folk have always had plenty of space to play with. The city has taken advantage of its relatively small population, and the fact there are no other cities nudging it on the shoulder.

Single-storey homes on big blocks have for many years been the norm. Those that can afford them have pools, while those that can’t usually still manage a double garage with room for the ute and the beer fridge. If you aren’t cashed-up from the latest mining boom, you might have to live in a slightly rougher area, a bit further out from where you work, but in a city where the car is king (despite its above-average public transport system), what’s the big deal?

But that’s not sustainable. Partly due to immigrants like me, Perth’s population is growing fast. All these people will need somewhere to live, and while coastal towns like Mandurah boom, and new towns are created, they are at the limits of a reasonable commute to the businesses in the CBD.

In the city, single homes on single blocks are becoming rarer, as the developers move in and transform the space formerly occupied by a single-storey home into three or four two-storey houses. A house on a single block next to the house we rented in Victoria Park recently sold for around $1 million. It looked like it would benefit from demolition – and I expect that is what will eventually happen. In Perth it’s often the land you’re paying for, not the property on it.

So homes are becoming smaller and taller, but the detached dream holds strong. I have viewed beautiful houses that are so close to the one next door that the planners insisted on obscured glass in the master bedroom, such is the risk of your neighbours catching you in your underwear (or worse). Then there are the mini-mansions that have four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a home cinema room but a postage stamp of a back yard, hemmed in by the neighbours’ walls.

Regeneration projects and the development of smart apartment blocks are drawing more people to the city centre. I’m one of them. Driven by a (somewhat pompous) desire to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, I’ve abandoned the Australian dream of a big detached house and purchased an apartment in East Perth, close to public transport and other facilities and designed to minimise the cost of heating and cooling. The block has a great mix of residents – but it is perhaps notable that very few of them are Australian.

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