Ever felt like new homes these days are shrinking faster than your wallet after payday?

You're not alone. Over the last 30 years, the size of the average house block in Australia has dropped by a whopping 60 per cent. While developers and councils are laughing all the way to the bank, young families are left struggling with where to put the veggie patch, let alone find space for the kids to kick a footy.

The Shrinking Block Sizes: Tracking the Decline

Have you noticed how much smaller new housing blocks are these days? Gone are the days of the traditional quarter-acre block. These days, land sizes of 200-350 square metres are the norm. The decline has been rapid, dropping around 60-70% over the last 30 years.

Developers and councils are equally responsible. Developers want to maximise profits, so smaller blocks mean more houses to sell at a higher price. Councils are also addicted to rates revenue, so more houses mean more money in their pocket. The effects on families are huge. Less outdoor space for kids and pets. No room for trees or gardens. Single-car garages with carports. Less storage. Constantly feeling cramped and crowded. It significantly impacts well-being and quality of life.

Unfettered greed and lack of proper regulation have also led to land banking, where developers hoard land and drip-feed it onto the market to keep prices high. The result is that land costs now make up around 60% of a new home's price, locking many out of the market altogether.

Something has to change. Smaller blocks are fine for singles or couples, but for families with children, space is essential. Regulations need tightening to prevent developers from prioritising profits over liveability and to encourage the release of more appropriately sized land at affordable prices. The future shape of our suburbs and the well-being of families are at stake. It's time for developers and councils to stop being so short-sighted. Our communities deserve better.

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Photo by Mari Helin / Unsplash

Landbanking: How Developers Restrict Supply

Developers are in the business of building and selling properties to make a profit. To maximise profits, some employ questionable tactics like landbanking to restrict the supply of new housing and drive up prices.

Landbanking refers to when developers buy large plots of land but do not develop them immediately. Instead, they hold onto the land for years while the value increases. During this time, the unused land remains vacant and undeveloped. Developers claim this is necessary to ensure a steady supply of land for future developments. However, critics argue it's a deliberate ploy to create an artificial scarcity that allows developers to sell the land at a premium when they are finally ready to build.

For homebuyers and renters, the effects of landbanking are felt acutely. Less available land means fewer new properties coming onto the market. This lack of supply allows developers to raise house prices significantly higher than the increased costs of materials and labour. The end result is young families and first homebuyers priced out of the market or paying inflated prices for new homes on undersized blocks of land.

Some councils also benefit from these inflated land values through higher rates and taxes, creating a perverse incentive to approve as many new developments as possible. However, by failing to enforce limits on how long land can be banked, councils are complicit in worsening the housing affordability crisis. Regulations and policies need to be strengthened to prevent abuse, limit the time land can be banked, and force the release of vacant plots for development.

While developers are not solely responsible for high housing costs and undersupply, their unchecked landbanking practices have exacerbated these problems. More transparency and accountability around landbanking, as well as policies that promote developing land in a timely fashion, can help address these critical issues. The wellbeing of young families depends on access to affordable, well-designed housing, so resolving these systemic failures should be a top priority.

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Photo by Bret Kavanaugh / Unsplash

The Psychological Effects of Smaller Homes

The trend towards smaller homes and less living space is having real impacts on our wellbeing. When families are crammed into tiny houses and apartments, it can lead to increased stress, conflict, and health issues.

Crowding and Stress

Living in close quarters with little privacy or personal space often leads to feelings of crowding and loss of control over your environment. This can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol and negatively impact your mental health and relationships. Constant proximity to others, lack of escape, and noise pollution from shared walls are common complaints for those in cramped living spaces.

Lack of Storage and Clutter

Smaller homes mean less storage space for the accumulation of items that naturally occurs over years of living in one place. This can result in clutter buildup, difficulty organising and cleaning, and feelings of being overwhelmed by ‘stuff’. The chaos and lack of order that comes from not having enough storage leads to psychological distress for many.

Health Impacts

Inadequate housing conditions have been linked to poor health outcomes, especially for children and low-income families. Issues like mould, lack of temperature control, and pest infestations are more common in small, cheaply-constructed homes. These environmental hazards can contribute to respiratory diseases, allergies, and other chronic illnesses. Lack of safe spaces for children to play and be active also hinders healthy development.

While downsizing and more efficient use of space may have environmental benefits, the basic human need for shelter, privacy, and comfort must still be met. Developers and city councils would do well to consider not just the number of new homes being built but whether they actually meet the needs of modern households. Reasonable regulations on minimum dwelling sizes, affordable options for low-income families, and incentives for building multi-bedroom units are steps in the right direction.

The truth is, size really does matter when it comes to housing and healthy, happy communities. A little more living space could make a big difference.

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Photo by G-R Mottez / Unsplash

Crammed In: Meeting Modern Family Needs

Modern families have diverse needs, but many new homes today seem designed for a bygone era. Developers focused on maximising profits have crammed houses onto tiny blocks of land, leaving little room for the lives that unfold within those four walls.

Space to grow

Families need room for hobbies, pets, gardening and hosting friends, but the average new block size has shrunk by over 60% in the last 30 years. Backyards are becoming extinct, while three-car garages are the new status symbol. This lack of private open space can feel suffocating, especially for children and teens who need room to explore their independence.

Flexible living

The traditional nuclear family is now joined by single parents, multi-generational families, and share houses. Home designs must accommodate diverse needs, with adaptable spaces for home offices, guest rooms or granny flats. Instead, many new homes offer a choice of 3-4 bedrooms and a rumpus room at best.


While land prices have skyrocketed due to developer greed and council rate hikes, home sizes have shrunk to improve profit margins. The resulting mortgage stress and lack of housing affordability, especially for first home buyers, is a national crisis. With banks unwilling to take risks, many struggle to break into the property market at all.

A place to call home

A home should be more than an investment, it’s where memories are made. Yet cramped, cookie-cutter designs make it hard to express individuality or form an emotional connection. Thoughtful architecture and livable spaces are needed to build homes, not just houses.

Regulations limiting developer control and promoting affordable, family-friendly housing are sorely needed. Homes should be designed around how people really live now, not an idealised version of the past. With more spacious, flexible options at an affordable price, modern families might finally find a place to call home.

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Photo by Jed Owen / Unsplash

Less Outdoor Space: Impacts on Kids and Pets

With less outdoor space, modern families face challenges in providing opportunities for kids and pets to get outside. As land sizes have shrunk over the years, backyards - if they exist at all - are tiny. This lack of private open space impacts children’s development and the wellbeing of family pets.

Kids today have less opportunity for unstructured outdoor play, an important part of growth and learning. Without a backyard, activities like playing make-believe, building forts, climbing trees or riding bikes are limited. Kids miss out on experiences that boost creativity, problem-solving skills and physical abilities.

Even apartment balconies or courtyards typically don’t provide enough space for kids to really run and play. Parents have to take children to public parks, playgrounds or recreational facilities to get outside which requires time, planning and supervision. The convenience of just sending kids out to play in their own backyard is lost.

Family pets also suffer from lack of outdoor access. Dogs in particular need room to run, play, do their business and get exercise. Small yards or no yard at all mean dogs don’t get the activity and stimulation they need which can lead to behavioural issues. Responsible pet owners have to commit to walking, exercising and playing with their dogs to keep them happy and healthy without a backyard.

The reduction of private land for homes is problematic. While higher-density living has its benefits, the loss of functional outdoor space for families should not be ignored. Developers and councils need to consider how they can promote private yards, shared green spaces and public recreational areas to support the wellbeing of all community members - including the youngest and furriest. Compromise and creativity will be key to solving this modern problem in our urban environments.

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Photo by Benjamin Davies / Unsplash

Struggles of the Great Australian Dream

The Great Australian Dream of owning your own home with a backyard for the kids is fading fast. House blocks have shrunk dramatically over the past 30 years, making it nearly impossible for the average family to achieve. Developers and councils are equally to blame for the lack of livable land.

Developers are focused solely on maximising profits. By shrinking block sizes, they can squeeze more properties into an area and increase their returns. Never mind the fact that a tiny block can’t accommodate the needs of a growing family. All that matters are the dollars and cents at the end of the day.

At the same time, councils benefit from higher density through increased rates revenue. More properties mean more money in their coffers to fund community services. But do these services actually meet the needs of residents when there’s no room for amenities like parks or playgrounds?

The effects of cramped living spaces on physical and mental health are well documented. Lack of privacy, noise pollution, and fewer opportunities for recreation can lead to stress, anxiety, and relationship issues. Children especially suffer without access to outdoor areas where they can play freely.

Rather than addressing the root causes of exorbitant land prices like lack of regulation on developers and land banking, the government continues to spruik compact housing as an affordable solution. But “affordable” means little when there’s no liveability. Policymakers must find ways to incentivise developers and councils to release more land for spacious, family-friendly housing. The Great Australian Dream deserves another chance.

Otherwise, we’ll be left with a nation of “sardine suburbs” where high density means diminished wellbeing for all. The future of our communities depends on land use that puts people first, not profits. It’s time for developers and councils to step up, or step aside. Our families deserve nothing less.

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Photo by Braňo / Unsplash

Regulating Greed: Reining in Developers

Developers have been allowed to accumulate massive land banks and drip-feed land releases to keep prices high. Councils rezone land to residential, instantly increasing its value, often with little consideration of infrastructure needs or community concerns.

Regulations and policies urgently need to curb developer greed and require minimum land sizes for new homes. Councils should limit rapid residential rezoning and ensure infrastructure and services keep pace with population growth. Families need liveable spaces and communities, not just properties that maximise profits.

Developers and councils must provide well-designed, spacious, and affordable housing that meets the needs of modern Australian families and nurtures community wellbeing. Regulations should incentivise building complete communities, not just cramming in as many properties as possible.

Our families and communities deserve better than what greed and short-sighted planning have given us so far. It’s time for regulations with purpose and a long-term vision.


While developers and councils are clearly focused on profits and yields, families are suffering the consequences of their greed in cramped, unsuitable spaces. For young couples starting out or growing families, the great Aussie dream of a quarter acre block and big backyard seems well and truly out of reach.

The solution isn't easy, but continuing to squeeze families into shrinking spaces to line the pockets of big business certainly isn't it. Developers need to make more land available and build houses that actually meet the needs of modern life. Councils need to regulate sensibly and curb excess profiteering. And as homebuyers, we need to demand better and vote with our wallets.

The spaces we live in shape our lives in so many ways. It's time we took back control and built communities and homes that allow families to thrive, not just survive.

Our children deserve backyards to play in, and we all deserve room to grow. The future is here - let's make it spacious.