It's time to rethink the granny flat: Housing affordability expert

author-avatar By on July 07, 2021
It's time to rethink the granny flat: Housing affordability expert

One housing affordability expert said it's time to rethink the humble granny flat as both an investment choice and an affordable housing option.

That opinion comes from the author of 'Small is the New Big', Ian Ugarte.

"With the June vacancy for rentals hitting an all-time low, many homeowners who seek to capitalise on the lack of rentals and at the same time boost their already stretched income think that the only way they can accommodate a paying tenant is to build a self-contained unit out the back in the form of a granny flat," Mr Ugarte said.

"But they quickly discover it’s not just a costly exercise, they’re not legally rentable in all states of Australia.

"Councils heavily regulate this sector by setting onerous conditions that can be both difficult and expensive to meet.

"It’s generally far simpler and more cost-effective to just do a partial conversion of your home and convert your existing garage into a micro-apartment."

Domain research shows rental vacancy rates fell to their 'lowest ever recorded' figures in June, with all cities bar Melbourne and Sydney experiencing rates below 1.5%.

Mr Ugarte has advocated for alternative ways to address Australia's renting and housing affordability issues.

"Instead of the unappealing prospect of opening up your entire home to a complete stranger, ‘shared living’ can mean making a partial conversion of a room, like the garage, to create an entirely separate living zone – complete with its own bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchenette for a ‘tenant’," he said.

"So, while a full renovation may be out of reach for many homeowners in the current climate, a partial conversion of a garage (with existing access points to the micro-apartment and communal areas in the main dwelling) can be completed for a fraction of the cost in about two weeks - with these costs easily recouped within the first year." 

Mr Ugarte said rethinking affordable options is a "win-win for all concerned". 

"With more and more singles and couples looking for rental options across Australia, and fewer and fewer affordable options available to them than ever before, it’s time to rethink housing solutions and create rental options that can be implemented right now," he said.

"It’s vital to preserve the relevant state-based policies and regulations that enable these sorts of partial renovations to ensure we can provide affordable housing opportunities wherever we can, all while easing mortgage stress for homeowners."


Photo by Calvin Hanson on Unsplash

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Harrison is a Senior Finance Journalist, and joined Savings in 2020. Prior to joining Savings, he worked for some of Australia's largest comparison sites and media organisations. With a keen interest in the economy, housing policy, and personal finance, Harrison is passionate about informing readers on the strings being pulled in high-up places and how it affects everyday Australians.

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