Home sizes are shrinking across the western world, with rising populations, apartment living, and increasing prices putting renewed pressure on the size of the family home. While smaller houses are not necessarily cheaper, they do provide people with more choice in overheated property markets. Rather than seeing shrinking homes as a negative consequence of unsustainable population growth, people are embracing the trend for high quality, high density homes that just happen to have a smaller footprint.
Homes are getting smaller across most of the developed world, with reports of shrinking homes coming out of the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand just to name a few countries. Block sizes and homes built in the US are both getting substantially smaller, with the median lot size for new homes at its lowest level in 39 long years. While US homes are still very large by global standards, floor area peaked in 2015 at 232 square metres and lot sizes have been dropping since the early 90s.
The situation in the UK is even more pronounced, especially in London and other busy urban markets. Britain already has some of the smallest home sizes in Europe, with Danish homes almost double the size by comparison. The average UK house is 20 percent smaller than it was in the 1970s, with rising prices and shrinking homes caused by higher land values and rising population levels. Despite a minimum nationwide metric implemented by the government in 2015, houses have shrunk from 83.3 square metres in the 70s to 67.8 square metres today. This is the lowest level for 90 years according to an analysis from LABC Warranty.
The situation in Australia and New Zealand is similar, with millenials being blamed for shrinking homes along with rising prices and a growing population. According to research by CommSec and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average new house in Australia is 189.8 square metres, which is down 2.7 percent from last year and the lowest it's been since 1997. While Australian homes are still very large by global standards, smaller suburban blocks and the rise of apartment living is sure to have an impact over coming years.
Along with the obvious economic and lifestyle factors, University of Sydney social economist Peter Phibbs thinks people are downsizing to apartments to get away from their adult kids: “People are keen to get away from their kids... They’re trying to segregate space. I think that’s one of the trends that’s getting missed. People are questioning having a ballroom and a trophy room and a teenager’s room and a parent’s retreat. People are looking at a slightly more efficient way to build.”
In Auckland, New Zealand, the average size of houses consented in April dropped to 215 square metres, which was the lowest it's been since January 2011. While homes in New Zealand are not shrinking as fast as many other countries, there is an increasing trend towards high quality, high density homes. The recent 'supreme' award winning home at the Architectural Design Awards in Wellington was just 74 square metres, as a new breed of downsized and high-spec homes emphasise quality over quantity.
Image source: sculpies/Shutterstock