Sunday, 12 February 2017

Little Boxes

Demographia's 2016 report singles out land regulation for housing unaffordability.

Japan: Made of ticky tacky
"The largest losses in housing affordability have been in markets with more restrictive land use policies..."
"In the worst cases, urban containment metropolitan areas become investors markets, attracting buyers principally interested in housing for the extraordinary short term profits typical of distorted markets in which demand substantially exceeds supply …"

'Land use policies' is vague, but I think they mean urban containment, or anti-sprawl policies that limit the release of land.

Perhaps they'd be better off targeting different regulation.

The authors have been linked to pro-sprawl interests. The report's introduction was written by an Australian Federal senator who also owned a construction company. Of course, you don't ask builders whether land release is the solution, just as you wouldn't ask a barber if you need a haircut.

Now, jurisdictions that heavily regulate sprawl will usually also limit density, and it's allowing higher density that may better alleviate unaffordability.

My adopted hometown of Adelaide is less affordable than Tokyo simply because of Australian councils' minimum lot sizes, often 240m2 and above. In Adelaide and indeed much of Australia, it's 'Go big or no home' (the quote comes from the link: a video with a similar conclusion). Plus, I don't think Tokyo has much in the way of urban containment regulation. I see family homes on near-vertical cliff faces.

Australia: Go big or no home
The price per square meter of land may be double in Tokyo, but if I can buy, build, or rent a house a third of what's allowable in Adelaide, I'll be fine. Contrary to popular belief, my standard of living has not decreased because I don't have a yard for my (nonexistent) kids to run around in.

There's much to be said of little boxes on little plots.


  1. Nice post Derek! I would be living in a tiny house if not for my children. Have you seen some of the tiny homes? The benefits would be huge! The standard of living in some of those are amazing.

    1. Great to hear from you! I think you refer to:
      They're not everybody's choice, as you say, but what matters is that they are a choice.