Fighting McMansions with higher densities in Sydney

Australia has a reputation for McMansions but some Sydney neighborhoods and suburbs have seen a shift in recent years toward higher densities:

But while Sydney’s Hills District has been synonymous with the Great Australian Dream – life in the suburbs with a large backyard and Hills Hoist – it is quietly carving out a new identity.

Five years ago, in nearby Rouse Hill, 90 per cent of homes were houses. Today, it’s 60 per cent, census data shows. Houses in these suburbs regularly sell for Sydney’s median $1.15 million, while five years ago the prices were below $700,000.

Signs of change came as early as the opening of Rouse Hill Town Centre in 2008. At the time, there were plans for mixed-use apartments, but not all the locals were sold on the idea…

“Developers prefer the small lot subdivision, townhouse and apartment-style dwellings over the mansion style lots because there are more buyers than can afford them,” he said.

It sounds like the shift toward more housing units is not a backlash against McMansions per se but rather a high demand for more housing. Why build one McMansion when several townhomes could fit on the same lot?

In the long run, creating more housing units has multiple advantages: more people can access these communities, the townhomes are a better use of land opposed to detached houses and large lots, and higher population densities could support more vibrant street life. But, there could be one downside: how much will the new units help make housing more affordable? On the whole, more units in the metropolitan region should help reduce housing prices. However, if these new units are primarily concentrated in hot and/or desirable neighborhoods and the townhomes are more of luxury units rather than starter units, swapping McMansions for townhomes might not help many of the regions average residents.

Final thought: numerous people have suggested replacing McMansions with higher densities through a variety of means (teardowns, subdividing existing homes, building fewer McMansions in the first place) but Australia seems to be ahead of the United States in this regard.

New Halal subdivision planned for Sydney suburb

A new 145-lot development in the western suburbs of Sydney, Australia is drawing reactions from residents:

Qartaba Homes is promoting its 145-lot subdivision at Riverstone, near Rouse Hill, as Australia’s “very first project of its kind for the Muslim community”, The Daily Telegraph revealed yesterday…

Many residents expressed their concerns that non-Muslims would be excluded from the site, while others said the developers were welcome to the land, which they said was flood prone.

Qartaba director Wajahat Rana said the company was happy to sell blocks of land to anyone…

University of Technology Sydney sociology professor Andrew Jakubowicz said the creation of religious enclaves was not a new concept: “The phenomenon of creating an environment where people of a particular religious faith feel comfortable is a very old Christian tradition, associated particularly with the Anglican church.

More on this from the Daily Telegraph:

While the company has insisted people from all religious backgrounds are free to take up the offer, it advises that the loans are “100 per cent Halal” and a “chance to escape Riba (interest)” because interest is a sin under Islamic law.

Qartaba Homes director Khurram Jawaid said it was the real estate deal of a lifetime, open to Australians of all faiths and backgrounds, but the state MP for Hawkesbury Ray Williams said the project was divisive.

“I can only imagine the repercussions if a developer were to advertise a new Judeo-Christian housing estate; they would be hung, drawn and quartered,” Mr Williams said…

Land parcels range from 400sq m to 800sq m and are being offered at $85,000 plus charges, including a booking deposit of 30-35 per cent and a 24-30 month interest-free payment plan.

Sounds like an interesting project. I wonder how a similar proposal might fare in the American suburbs. America has a history of ethnic neighborhoods, particularly in immigrant gateway cities, though the percent of the ethnic group living in that neighborhood may not have been anywhere near 80-100%. In the last few years, I have tracked some of the opposition to mosque proposals in DuPage County (see here and here for examples) but the controversy seems to have died out for the time being. I imagine a proposal for a Halal neighborhood would really raise NIMBY concerns from certain local and national groups.

Just curious: could a process of obtaining homeownership without having to pay interest be appealing to a lot of potential homeowners, particularly in tougher economic times?