The days of urban McMansions are numbered and QUT architecture lecturer Kirsty Volz says the solution to more flexible, affordable housing lies between a large home and a unit – the ‘missing middle’.

As the federal government announces its multi-billion-dollar construction stimulus package, Volz argues now is the time to change our approach to how and where we live. She has also set her second-year students the task of creating 50sqm homes that fit the bill.

Over the last few months, we have all spent more time at home than ever. We've also been using our homes in more ways than ever – for work, school, socialising, and recreation,” says Volz.

“The stimulus package for housing, renovations and new builds is designed to stem construction industry job losses after the economic fallout caused by Covid-19. But it’s also an opportunity for many Australians to alter their housing to suit life during, and after, a pandemic.”

“Not everyone wants, needs, or can afford a traditional, three or four-bedroom free-standing home, or the even bigger dwellings that have proliferated on new estates on the edge of cities,” she says.

“At the same time, apartment living is not for everyone and the tiny house trend is not practical for most people because some are just too small to be functional."

“Tiny houses have a transience that can make them feel like caravan living. They also do not address the problems of affordability and can even disadvantage people further because while land appreciates in value, buildings depreciate.”

“Light, gentle density is the way forward to create housing diversity and more affordable options while also saving the much-loved backyard.”

This ‘missing middle’ concept is one QUT’s Creative Industries architecture students including Jayden Choi, Natasha Kooymans and Bronwyn Horn have embraced

Volz says the main aim of the architecture studio project was to investigate low impact strategies to gently increase density in Brisbane’s suburbs. The students were challenged to design homes that provide practical, semi-private spaces for people to live, work and play in.

“Most importantly, the project is about providing diversity in housing stock to create more inclusive housing opportunities for everyone. These low impact strategies also help to maintain qualities of the suburbs that people value such as backyards and private green space," she says.

An increasingly popular form of renovation in Australia is to add a granny flat or small house to an existing home. This form of renovating or adding to your home may be boosted by the stimulus package and can promote a significant amount of flexibility.

Known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), they cater for a variety of activities including a home office, a second living area, or guest accommodation, and help facilitate multigenerational living.”

ADUs can also benefit neighbourhoods, suburbs and even cities. Studies of cities such as Toronto, Portland and Seattle have shown ADUs have improved access to affordable housing in these cities.”

“However, planning legislation in most Australian cities, including Brisbane, is yet to catch up and make the most of the opportunities presented by ADUs,” says Volz.

Image: Jayden Choi 'missing middle' house design / Supplied.