The owner-occupied suburban detached house is representative of the housing choice of most Australians. It accounts for 80 percent1 of the current Australian housing stock and is anticipated to continue its large claim on the mainstream housing landscape. The preference for the suburban detached house has become normalised in the housing culture, and is claimed to be the ideal home or the great Australian dream. This thesis seeks discover what it is that people expect a home to be, and to discern the appeal of suburban living.
A house, in its basic function, is to provide shelter. And for many people, the need for shelter becomes the largest expenditure that they will undertake. For many, the great Australian Dream is realised in the form of a project home. As a low-cost housing alternative to an Architect designed house or apartment unit, the mass-housing industry has contributed to the aspiration for home ownership by largely supplying simply constructed detached houses. Its claim to a substantial piece of the mainstream housing market proves to be an important instrument to enrich our understanding of the general housing motivations and intentions of households.
The premise of this thesis is to define the housing ideals and preferences of the household and to discern the meanings attached to the suburb and ownership of a detached house.
The first part of the thesis is essentially theoretical and remains mostly general, setting up the framework for the interpretation of the project home presented in Chapter 2 and the case study reported in Chapter 3. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the historical forces attributed to the conceptualisation of the ideal which has made the aspiration for ownership of a detached house culturally entrenched. Family, privacy, modification and the backyard are discussed to highlight the appeal of the detached house over other housing types.
Advertising discourse of project houses from The Courier Mail and a walk-through of display houses were examined to gain an interpretation of the general housing motivations and intentions of the consumer market as reflected in the design of the project home. The study focuses on the domestic structure of the samples to reveal a social structure that the household is asked to identify with and the implications on the everyday life and interaction of occupants. This is followed with a case study which reports on the housing motivations and intentions of three households.
It was concluded that privacy, the backyard and ease of modification to the built environment are the principle motivations for the continuing preference for suburban living. The ideal home or the great Australian dream was found to be especially relevant to the traditional nuclear family structure.
1 National and State Summary Tables, 20/07/06, Australian Bureau of Statistics.