Size Does Matter – An Alternative Path to Housing Affordability in WA

I recently submitted an article on on housing affordability within Western Australia to Curtin Business School’s “Future Thoughts Collective”, where (mostly) business leaders share their opinions, thoughts and insights about the future of Western Australia.

There is a range of interesting perspectives on housing affordability from Marion Fulker CEO, Committee for Perth to Debra Goostrey CEO, Urban Development Institute of Australia to property developers and many others. It is free to register to read them all at Here is my contribution

Size Does Matter – An Alternative Path to Housing Affordability in WA

Brad Pettitt


WA’s affordability problem is well known. Average housing costs have rapidly
jumped from 3.9 times the average salary in 2000 to 6.5 times a decade later. In
high amenity central areas like Fremantle and Perth the average house costs
close to 10 times the average salary making it unaffordable except the wealthy.
The result is that average income earners including police, nurses and teachers
are priced out of buying in all but two suburbs in Perth. The WA rental situation is
no better with Anglicare showing that only five percent of the rental market is affordable for people of lower incomes.
The cause of WA’s affordability problem is often put down to the shortage of housing and land supply but a closer
examination of trends shows this shortage in only part of the affordability challenge and releasing more land on our
urban fringes will not solve the problem in a sustainable manner. An often underrated piece in the housing
affordability puzzle is housing size.
Over the past five decades the size of the average house in WA has more than doubled while the number of
occupants per house has almost halved. As a result, WA is on average providing around four times as much floor
space for each Perth resident as it was in the 1960s. And we wonder why we have an affordability and housing crisis
despite decades of rising real incomes.
Perth is building some of the biggest houses in the world with an average of around 250m2. This is more than three
times bigger than the average new home in the UK and even bigger than the average house in the US.
A key factor in addressing WA’s affordability crisis will be building smaller and more diverse housing options. The
Fremantle Council has taken this challenge seriously by implementing a number of planning changes to enable and
encourage smaller and more diverse housing choices.
In 2011 the Fremantle Council passed the award winning small ancillary dwellings amendment to its planning
scheme. This enables residents in the City of Fremantle to build a small dwelling (i.e. a granny flat without the need
for a granny) so long as the block size is above 450m2. This will enable up to 5000 new small dwellings in the
suburbs around the Fremantle city centre. The WA Planning Commission recently enabled similar changes across
the rest of WA.
In the Fremantle city centre, the Fremantle Council is aiming to more than quadruple its inner city population by
adding up to 3000 dwellings in the eastern end of the city centre. Concerned that if solely left to market forces these
would primarily be million dollar plus luxury apartments, the Fremantle Council mandated diverse apartment sizes
including that at least 25% of dwellings must be 60m2 or less and that no more than 40% can be more than 125m2.
This is in addition to a minimum of 15% social housing in higher density developments. As a result of these planning
changes Fremantle has the potential to offer affordable smaller dwellings to up to 10,000 new residents.
The smart path to more affordable housing is about more than speeding up land releases on Perth’s fringes. A more
sustainable approach is in providing more diverse and smaller dwellings close to amenity and public transport. This
will ensure that more of our suburbs have a diverse range of more affordable housing types for the diverse stages of
our lives.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

2 Responses to Size Does Matter – An Alternative Path to Housing Affordability in WA

  1. why is it that underworld can fund a person in setting up a drug dealing business but suburban business ladies can’t see the money to be made in welfare especially housing. lets pick the target group of youth and a service named picys (Perth inner city youth service) blencowe st leederville. if you were to buy housing and allow them to facilitate housing of kids and make the business women gina type an income with tax deductables why can’t they see a that can make money by collecting donations from clothing shoes accessories and holding a welfare auction y can’t the govt pump up the diversity in multicultural by offering cheap land sales to the multicultural societies. y can’t vacant land spaces have donger type deductables like a small community renting a room to those in need y can’t we have suburban camping facilities with daily tent and lot hire with coin operated ablution that is temporary and portable.

  2. Reblogged this on Local Govt. and Subiaco and commented:
    These articles on affordable housing are worth a read.

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