Just when you couldn’t feel more frustrated about Sydney’s lack of affordable housing, developers and state governments are posing yet another shitty ‘fix’ to the problem: depressingly small boarding rooms.
A new affordable housing policy expects to ask essential workers like nurses, teachers and fire fighters — you know, the foundations of our society — to live in tiny, 12 square metre boarding rooms with communally shared amenities in its bid to make living near their place of work more affordable. Which to me sounds like a very diplomatic way of saying essential workers should slum it in shitty, tiny homes or not work in expensive areas.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported plans submitted to the City of Sydney for a six-story building to be built, which would have 28 rooms for 37 boarders. The plan includes 19 single rooms, sized at the minimum requirement of 12 square metres, and nine double rooms for couples, which are at least 16 square metres.
All the rooms have kitchen and bathroom ‘facilities’ (whatever that means), and then residents would have to share communal kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms and laundry spaces.
So… they’re glorified studios, but even smaller.
Dr Chris Martin, a senior research fellow at the City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW, criticised boarding rooms as just extremely small flats that are being fanged as new, innovative homes.
He pointed out that despite being smaller than studio apartments, the rooms usually cost more, and they aren’t required to meet the ventilation and solar access standards that other apartments typically have to meet.
“I think there are questions to be asked about the extent to which this ‘tiny amount of space’, which isn’t ordinarily allowed by our planning system for what it calls residential flats, should be allowed in the name of affordability,” he said, per SMH.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? This seems less about actually making housing affordable for essential workers that deserve a home just as much as everyone else, and more about copping out of a very real issue by handing it over to developers. Who obviously have an interest in selling or renting tiny bedrooms to multiple people because more tenants = more money. It’s giving very late stage capitalism.
“The new [scheme] introduces planning provisions to ensure that the smaller size of private rooms in boarding houses and co-living housing is offset by communal spaces,” a Planning Department spokesperson said, per SMH.
“Our new standards will ensure all residents have enough space to relax and will support community living.”
When you read through the development plan and see its strict rules for lodgers, it includes limits on when music can be played out loud and a blanket ban on any pets in the building.
Housing spokeswoman for the Greens, Jenny Leong, said it best when she called out the tiny apartments for not truly being homes in the sense of providing privacy and comfort.
“The new generation boarding house provisions still allow boarding houses to consist of tiny windowless rooms without proper kitchen facilities or bathroom facilities,” she said, per SMH.
“It’s a disgrace, and this form of housing should not be used by the government as a viable option for public or social housing.”
Essential workers shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfortable living conditions and privacy just to be able to live near where they work. And honestly, all this does is further marginalise people with lower incomes, rather than actually doing anything to make homes more affordable.