4 Jul 2011, Comments (31)

Hating McMansions: not class warfare

Author: Helen

I commented on a post of Legal Eagle’s which mentioned McMansions in passing, with the rider: “(S)ome love to rail against environmentally unsound McMansions (how dare the lower class have a spacious and comfortable house, bigger than middle-class people!)”. I called bullshit. Legal Eagle replied “Explain yourself!” And I thought it was worth a post.

I’m calling bullshit on the popular story that criticising McMansions is equivalent to sneering at the working class, and denying them the good things in life. In this narrative, the people championing the McMansion are the true socialists and stand with the working man and woman in their quest for a truly equal society. This is in no way peculiar to Legal Eagle – I’ve seen it all over the media.

It’s one of the endless riffs on the “elites” narrative. According to this variation, the heroic workers are approaching, under neoliberal capitalism, the egalitarian nirvana which they always sought, and the only truly authentic expression of this is a mock-Tuscan mansion of 215 or so square metres, built to the boundary on a treeless (except for pencil pines) quarter-acre block on a nodule-shaped development far from public transport, shops and services, a hotbox in summer and freezing in winter, costing squillions to heat, cool and furnish. But wait! Who’s this, crouching behind one of the two Yucca plants out the front? Oh, no! It’s those horrible “elites” again, throwing cold water on this wonderful social apotheosis, claiming that McMansions are really a bit crap. It’s because they just don’t want the heroic working class to have nice things!

Here’s the article which provoked Eagle’s reaction. It’s written by someone who knows his stuff. But I see the counter-narrative everywhere. During the last election, I saw a letter by a concerned citizen in our local newspaper complaining that the Greens bad-mouthed mcMansions and by association, ordinary Australians. I recognised the name on the letter as a Labor apparatchik (not local), so I know it’s spin.

Unfortunately for this story, its main premise is a fiction – McMansion owners are more likely to be up and coming IT workers and professionals or semiprofessionals as classic battlers. But let’s put that aside for a minute and consider the idea on its internal consistency alone.

What it comes down to is: we’re criticising a mode of planning and building, and being told we’re not allowed to claim one way of building is objectively better than another, in case we offend the lower/middle class (that is, most of us). Imagine if progressives had been the source of this idea. Political correctness! the media would cry. Po-mo relativism! Emotional!! (In Australia, the most devastating criticism possible.) Yes, built environments have political and cultural significance, but I am willing to go out on a limb and say that people who are fighting for the godgiven right of the Aussie Battlers to buy McMansions are speaking more from financial or political self interest than any warm concern for the battlers themselves.

I’m womanning the barricades, Comrades, for the right to say that McMansions are badly built and badly sited on badly planned developments. I’m not ashamed to say that building houses which regularly feature his and hers walk-in robes, home theatres and “powder rooms” as standard, but describing wall and ceiling insulation and smoke detectors as “luxury inclusion(s)” is doing it wrong. Furthermore, I’ll say these houses are poorly sited with regard to sunlight, lack eaves for shade, have thin walls, have little or no garden space, are built quickly and cheaply, will deteriorate rapidly and need expensive repairs in a relatively short time. I won’t be bullied into praising these white elephants by creative use of the Roveian/Howardian discourse of “elites”.

Now I know you’re going to say: “Yes, Helen, you can state your preference for one kind of dwelling over another, but saying that people shouldn’t want McMansions is telling other people what they ought to want, so, still elitist.” Which would be absolutely true, but don’t forget that there is an entire industry – advertising and marketing – whose job it is to tell people what they ought to want. Buyers aren’t just Choosing their Choice in a vaccuum. The building and development corporations (and the big box retailers who serve them, and the credit companies behind it all) are going to a lot of effort to appeal to aspiration, to snob value, to illusions of community and stability. Buyers adjust their “dreams” to fit whatever display model takes their fancy, while in reality the cookie-cutter homogeneity and cheapness of construction suits the developers and builders first and foremost. In other words, I think people are being told what they ought to want by the developers and the rest of the building/retail food chain, and unlike the McMansion opponents, they aren’t being called on it.

It doesn’t end there. The Big Box retailers love the bigger houses because they need to be furnished, and the pressure is on to furnish them a certain way, not just bring all your stuff from the rental house. There are more rooms, and you can’t just put a squeaky little sound system in that home theatre. Then, of course, there are the credit providers raking in their interest after that 24-month-interest-free period.

I have no doubt that if they had the will, the corporations and their advertisers could use the same lush, descriptive advertising to convince the punters they’d be happier and more comfortable (and richer!) in a smaller but better constructed and environmentally intelligent house. Swap the home theatre and his’n’hers walk-in robes for thicker walls, insulation and better basic construction. Use the Australian vernacular instead of the European, with overhanging eaves and shady verandahs on the western side. Use the space gained on the block to orient the houses for the climate. Have solar hot water and other money-saving goodies as standard, instead of “European tiles”, marble benchtops and such. Those can always come later with the money saved on power and other bills.

You don’t think they could sell this alternative vision? Of course they could. They’re the ones setting the agenda.

I dislike these houses because they are an embodiment of how individual buyers, society as a whole, and the environment on which we depend, are poorly served. I don’t dislike them because I don’t want ordinary people to have nice things. It’s because I would like them to have something so much better!

Update: The Melbourne Urbanist, Don Arthur on Club Troppo.

Update 2: Looks like a lot of people are changing their minds about house size.

Comments (31) »

  • lauredhel says:

    I’m sort of going “Wait, what?” right back at the premise of this altercation. Since when were people who are struggling for money buying up McMansions? The outer, relatively cheaper McMs are still shiny new five-plus-bedroom, four-plus-living area houses, and you can only just afford those on two median incomes.

    People who are struggling for money work damn hard to buy an old 2×1 or 3×1 or a flat, if they can ever buy at all. Are people pretending that triple-figure semi-professional mine workers are “lower class” for the purposes of an argument?

    Or – another thought – is this (partly?) a t’other-sider dialect difference? Here I do the “McMansion” eyeroll at the enormous brand-new beach-view multi-million no-eaves Tuscanoid monstrosities springing up in City Beach and Sorrento, as much (well, more so, because I pass them more) as at any in outer suburbs: it’s a type, not a price bracket. Either way, though, one of the necessary criteria to qualify as a McMansion is that the house be large, which will automatically put it well out of range of anyone lower class, no matter what suburb it’s in.

  • DA Munroe says:

    Nope. You don’t get it and worse, you don’t seem to understand your own dislike of McMansions, etc.

    “What it comes down to is: we’re criticising a mode of planning and building”

    Correct. That’s because the mode of planning and building is an efficient one that delivers lots of affordable large houses. Seriously, that is the core feature of the system that delivers McMansions. If you want bespoke, architect designed, etc etc… you want expensive. And no, sorry, apartments don’t count. nor do quaint terrace suburbs where everyone can cycle to work; these just aren’t realistic solutions to the society we actually live in (although I’m sure they work a treat for some other society out there in the multiverse).

    “I’m womanning the barricades, Comrades, for the right to say that McMansions are badly built and badly sited on badly planned developments.”

    Well, not really. For one thing it’s factually incorrect to say they’re badly built, unless you’re talking about orienting each one so the sun hits just so, but again – the cost of mass production is a loss of quality.

    As for badly planned developments, this myth is so entrenched that there is now a neck-high pile of regulations for developments that has slowed new developments to a crawl, and pumped up the cost of housing.

    “Now I know you’re going to say: “Yes, Helen, you can state your preference for one kind of dwelling over another, but saying that people shouldn’t want McMansions is telling other people what they ought to want, so, still elitist.”

    Yep. I would say exactly that. So what’s your response? Ah, I see it is in the very next sentence.

    ” Which would be absolutely true, but don’t forget that there is an entire industry – advertising and marketing – whose job it is to tell people what they ought to want. ”

    Um, no we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. It’s a socialist myth that people can be ‘told what to want.’ People are pretty good at figuring out what they want.

    “I have no doubt that if they had the will, the corporations and their advertisers could use the same lush, descriptive advertising to convince the punters they’d be happier and more comfortable (and richer!) in a smaller but better constructed and environmentally intelligent house.”

    No they wouldn’t. And here is the rub. You want people to want smaller, more ‘intelligent’ houses. but they don’t. It sucks perhaps but they simply don’t want to live in those houses. They want big, roomy houses with lots of cupboard space and a double garage, and it’s got nothing to do with corporations brainwashing them. Those houses are simply more fun to live in.

    Oh, I understand why you want people to want a different kind of house. Because if they did want that kind of house, it would be better for the environment.

    Personally, I disagree but it’s again one of those lets-agree-to-disagree things. Frankly suburban life is not the hell that planners think it is; most developments are either in farmland and scrubland and not Kakadu-like parasides; people are prepared to live in ‘suburban wasteland’ if it means having the house of their dreams.

    But all that aside, your vision of housing is simply not how real people want to live. Hence, you must make a choice: use the coercive power of the state to make them, or leave them to their tasteless, second-rate but nonetheless comfortable McMansions.

  • stevieholden says:

    They are too large, too numerous, too far away from necessities. Just part and parcel of #autogeddon or #armoiregeddon and the war on public transport: petrol is a fossil fuel. We are all in this together, feel the pheremones at a local bustop today.

  • Link says:

    Bravo Helen.

    Perhaps (Mister) DA Munroe would like to enlighten us as to how ‘real’ people want to live? He seems to be some sort ‘expert’.

  • Fine says:

    How “real people” want to live”? If I had enough time (which I don’t) I’d dig up a report about the Melbourne housing situation. The great dearth of stock is in smaller inner city flats/units/townhouses where a lot of people, even people with children, want to live.

    Real people want a whole range of housing, because, heavens above, people are different than each other.

  • Mindy says:

    I suspect Helen, that like me, you would have no problem with people living in McMansions if they were well insulated and energy efficient. The problem is that they are not, and they should be.

  • Brian Damage says:

    If one were silly enough to endure listening to talkback radio you would hear the endless schizophrenia of one minute complaining that ‘people’ are always living beyond their means -wasting money on unnesssary stuf like large screen TV’s etc etc and the next minute defending their right to live in extravagantly large houses- any one that attacks them is automatically eletist. Day in and day out.

  • paul walter says:

    Aahh, Helen, I’d not be fit to dry your feet with my hair (I don’t have that much anyway, phew).
    No, DA Munro, there is a hidden cost in housing built of poor materials and in poorly serviced suburbs involving weak supporting infrastructure. It is just transferring costs to the buyers and the state.
    And amplifying Helen’s message, my opinion is that not to design and or build, houses with the climate in mind- as we were doing a hundred years ago- when it is possible to do this, is buh-luddy irresponsible.
    As for “choice”, that’s great, so long as it extends to all, or at least a fair chance at it.

  • hannah's dad says:

    Nice article Helen, lots of valid points.

    When we had our home built we asked the company how much it would cost to widen the eaves. They were quite adequate but more is better.
    ‘Not much’ was the answer, cheaper than a bigger TV screen.
    They suggested we also ‘push’ the eaves over to the north side – make the width smaller on the south by 6 inches [yeah, I’m that old] and wider on the north by 6 inches.
    Cost?
    Nil.

    So for bugger all we have a north wall that receives maximum shade in summer when the sun is high and still gets the sun when we need it in winter.

    Not hard to figger out or do.

  • Helen says:

    I’m sort of going “Wait, what?” right back at the premise of this altercation. Since when were people who are struggling for money buying up McMansions? The outer, relatively cheaper McMs are still shiny new five-plus-bedroom, four-plus-living area houses, and you can only just afford those on two median incomes.

    Yes absolutely, see my paragraph #5 – but I thought I’d go on and address the McMansion myth as if that premise were true. As it isn’t, really, it’s just spin, all the way down. (Or turtles, which would be even more unlikely, but more fun.)

  • Helen says:

    D A Munroe,

    That’s because the mode of planning and building is an efficient one that delivers lots of affordable large houses.

    That depends how you define ‘efficient”. Sure, they’ll go up quickly, but how well will they last? And are the environmental costs all externalised? Are they predicated on ruinous petrol / heating/ cooling bills? et cetera.

    If you want bespoke, architect designed, etc etc… you want expensive.

    No, you could build better for the same price if your priorities were different – again, the “you” being the developer and the builder who impose your designs on the relatively powerless buyers.
    The houses we live in our suburb – the original housing stock – were built in the 1950s in a large scale development and they were most definitely not expensive, and they are also definitely more manageable in heat and cold. And they’re tweakable for added amenity.

    And no, sorry, apartments don’t count. nor do quaint terrace suburbs where everyone can cycle to work; these just aren’t realistic solutions to the society we actually live in (although I’m sure they work a treat for some other society out there in the multiverse).

    That’s what the society we live in is like because it’s built on cheap petrol and profit rather than human intelligence. Doesn’t mean it will never change.

    You deny advertising and marketing have any impact? You’d better tell the builders and developers and retailers that. I’m sure they could save a lot of money, because they are certainly pouring a lot into it at the moment. They’ll feel pretty silly once you tell them, won’t they!

  • Kath Lockett says:

    You’ve said this so much better than I have – which is many times – when I see these developments and worry about the costs of bad construction, heating and cooling and, as you say, the total lack of public transport and other essential facilities.

    Not to mention the two cars that double-income households need in order to drive into work to earn the money to pay the mortgage and the bills and, inevitably, the repairs from unprotected, eaveless windows and cracked rendering….

  • Hi 🙂 another thing I think’s worth mentioning is the incentives that governments have created in our tax system to invest as much as possible in housing, not to mention banks encouraging people to borrow way more than they can afford for this purpose. which I think also explains why it’s possible that “workers” (who are not particularly well off) might live in mcmansions – I don’t know who lives in them really, but I’d be surprised if it’s cheaper to buy a flat where I am (newtown)!

  • Legal Eagle says:

    Thanks for explaining and expanding, Helen. Like DA Monroe, I think this is an agree to disagree thing.

    When people get good wages, I don’t think it’s up to me to tell them how to best spend it. If they make environmentally unsound choices, so be it. I tend not to like the idea of policing people’s choices unless absolutely necessary. Maybe they aren’t the choices I would make, but that’s life.

    Nonetheless, I am not a libertarian. I think that sometimes people’s choices do need to be policed. My main concern is not consumer choices when people have the money to buy what they want. My concern is when people don’t have the capacity to afford what they are buying, but they are lured into buying by the availability of easy loans/credit etc. I used to repossess houses. Many people whose houses I repossessed should never have been given a loan. Thus, it was inevitable they would default. These people were caught in a kind of hideous poverty trap. They overextended themselves with the willing abettance of lenders and credit providers and then they got gouged when they defaulted.

    That is when I get concerned about working-class consumerism – when people are lured into buying more than they can afford and then, because they don’t have smarts with regard to money, it all ends in disaster.

    I remember one family whose house I repossessed saying to me, “But everyone has to have a home!” At that point both my husband and I worked full time. We did not own a home, and rented an apartment. By contrast, this family had had no one who was working for 18 months. They had bought a $500,000+ house in Caroline Springs (yes, a true McMansion). There’s no way my husband and I could have afforded that house, let alone a family on no income (although to be fair to them, when they bought it the son had had an income as a labourer). They would have been better off selling the house and renting somewhere smaller while things were tough.

    Of course, financial disasters happen to people of all classes, and as I’ve discussed here, intelligence or education is no indicator of whether someone can handle money or not, but people who are middle or upper class generally have more fall back options if disaster hits. They might have to downsize their house, but it’s less likely that they’re going to end up homeless. If you’re at the bottom already, there’s nowhere to go. So, insofar as I worry about consumerism, that’s my concern – where vulnerable people get trapped in poverty when they can’t afford things but attempt to buy them anyway because people put out inducements suggesting that it’s possible and indeed, necessary, to do so.

  • tigtog says:

    When people get good wages, I don’t think it’s up to me to tell them how to best spend it.

    Pointing out that McMansions are a prime example of consumerist spin is telling people “how to best spend” their money?

    When somebody informs me that something shiny that I’m considering buying is shoddily made and will need major repairs in short order, and that a competing product is better value for my money, I thank them for the valuable consumer advice, I don’t say “how dare you!’. I may or may not follow their advice, but I don’t think that they are snobs or finger-waggers for offering it.

  • Helen says:

    Dang it Tigtog, you’ve made my point in one sentence where it took me several paragraphs!

    The problem as I see it is that developments go up wholesale and “competing products” would be quite an effort for the homebuyers to source and build (I don’t buy the argument they can’t get better for the same money), so the system kind of funnels customers towards the M*rvac/HardlyNormal preferred system.
    I’m not even sure if consumers are allowed to put up a different kind of house on those developments where developer A is in conjunction with house builder B.

  • Elaine says:

    Another issue is that there aren’t truly competing products if you want to live in a specific area – you have to buy “delfin” or some other brand mcmansion to live in a particular “new suburb”.

  • M-H says:

    I agree so much, Helen. And, something you didn’t mention, huge houses require more cleaning (and we know who does most of that), more cleaning products, and more paint to maintain. And, DA Munroe, re “nor do quaint terrace suburbs where everyone can cycle to work; these just aren’t realistic solutions to the society we actually live in (although I’m sure they work a treat for some other society out there in the multiverse”: We live in one of those suburbs, and we have three bedrooms, wide eaves, and heaps of cupboard space, thanks to the clever architect who planned our renovation. We don’t have a double garage because we share a car (that’s parked on the street) and use public transport. We’re both a bit old and creaky for bikes, but we do love being about to get to work by car or bus in 15-30 minutes and walk to the shops for a coffee and/or a few bits and pieces. And so do lots of other people in the society we actually live in.

  • mgm says:

    My old 1950s home was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It was built with no insulation in the roof or walls and only had a single, non-flued gas heater in the lounge. Doors and windows were not sealed so it was draughty. The only toilet was miles from the bathroom, tucked behind the laundry.

    My new “McMansion” is a standard project home and has insulation, both in the walls and roof, solar hot water, low flow water fittings, sealed windows and exhaust fans, all standard. It is significantly cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than the old house.

    You claim that McMansions “will deteriorate rapidly and need expensive repairs in a relatively short time” with no evidence at all. 3 years down the track, I can see no evidence of shoddy work in my house.

  • wilful says:

    Much I agree with in the above article. but to defend the planning system somewhat, block sizes aint what they used to be. A quarter acre is about 1000 m2, the standard block for a new development out around Werribbee seems to be more like 500 m2. And five star housing efficiency is now regulated and mandatory (despite squaling from the developers). Sure they’re gaming the system, but we can and will keep ratcheting it up and closing loopholes.

    The argument against choice, that this is what people want only because it’s what’s marketed to them, is also a bit weak. These bigger houses actually are nicer. Not sustainable, so not ethical, but genuinely materially comfortable, at least that’s what most people do think. Not just a matter of social norms. . And my Footscray Edwardian weatherboard requires a truckload more maintenance.

    The two real failures, that make this an issue, are i. rampant population growth, and ii. complete car dependence.

    Problem one is really really hard. I wish I know what we could do to fix it.
    problem two is yeah, bloody annoying. Some new suburbs are done OK for local bike and pedetrian movement, but we’ve hardly built a new railway line in Melbourne since the 30s (and gosh don’t people hate it when we do?)

  • derrida derider says:

    I take the economist’s approach here – get the prices right (reflecting full social as well as private costs), and get the market adequately informed about those prices, and the behaviour is no longer any of your business.

    To the extent that McMansions are environmentally unsound (anyway not nearly so much as they used to be, BTW) then high energy prices – including a carbon tax – will fix that, so long as people know the cost when buying. Let’s have an independent annual energy estimate for each new house expressed in dollar terms, and make sure the buyer and (especially) the buyer’s mortgagee knows what it is; the rest is up to them.

    I don’t think McMansions are, as a rule, shoddily built – at least no more than any other homes. They’re certainly far better built than all those walk-up 3 storey brick flats from the 60s, 70s and 80s you see in Australian middle and inner suburbs. I reckon your prejudices got the better of you there Helen. And anyway if people want to live in a huge jerrybuilt shack then that’s their choice, not yours. No-one’s making you live in it.

    Transport costs are an issue of course – but that’s a product of the quarter-acre (well actually now more typically eighth of an acre) block, not the over-large house on it. But again, price fuel, roads and services properly and let them make their own space versus time versus money tradeoffs.

    Actual policy substance aside, I have to agree there is more than a bit of “I’m holier (greener) than thou” in your tone, Helen. I’m not surprised LE reacted. So long as they pay their way you do not get to tell others how to live their life.

  • conrad says:

    “But again, price fuel, roads and services properly and let them make their own space versus time versus money tradeoffs.”

    DD, I’m willing to bet that the next time petrol goes up significantly (which I assume will be in the not too distant future), we’ll here endless whining from people in these places about how the government should be spending billions putting in public transport where there wasn’t when they bought their houses, that shops and work are too far away etc. . This proves people often don’t know what they are buying since they can’t plan, say, 3 years into the future. If the government is willing to spend billions on this stuff to placate them, I don’t see why it shouldn’t restrict what is built to some degree. If it’s willing to safe “tough” then I’m not fussed.

  • Alphonse says:

    DD, you’re right about how BASIX (NSW) requirements now, and carbon tax later, address some of the energy waste in 200m2 mcmansions on, yes, 1/8 acre blocks (you might also have hoped for and end to the tax distortions that generate the bloat). But it’s not “holier (greener) than thou” to react to elitist anti-elite poseurs like LE who wouldn’t personally touch a mcmansion with a barge pole. Helen didn’t start this little culture war skirmish.

  • Helen says:

    My old 1950s home was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It was built with no insulation in the roof or walls and only had a single, non-flued gas heater in the lounge. Doors and windows were not sealed so it was draughty. The only toilet was miles from the bathroom, tucked behind the laundry.

    My new “McMansion” is a standard project home and has insulation, both in the walls and roof, solar hot water, low flow water fittings, sealed windows and exhaust fans, all standard. It is significantly cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than the old house.

    That’s a very pessimistic view of the 1950s house; that’s *exactly* what we have – double fronted weatherboard, one of hundreds built here en masse as tract homes in the 50s, and they are very tweakable. But when we moved in the wiring had reached its use by date, which was dangerous, so we restumped and replaced it. I’d imagine that would be much more expensive if the building had been a large two storey. A modern space heater, some insulation and (not even perfectly fitting – that’s one of my gripes I’m always going to get around to) – and the place is performing well in winter and summer, despite the fact we don’t have any air conditioning unit. I’d worry about how to clear the gutters or do exterior painting with a house that was extremely high off the ground!
    We tweaked the place thoroughly for less than a mcmansion/demolition would cost. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the original 50s house with a newly built house.

    You claim that McMansions “will deteriorate rapidly and need expensive repairs in a relatively short time” with no evidence at all. 3 years down the track, I can see no evidence of shoddy work in my house.

    You might have a good one. Three years is not much. Other people, though, have reported cut corners and building to a price.

  • Helen says:

    the behaviour is no longer any of your business.

    ?Prescriptive much?
    See, this is exactly what I’m talking about. To disagree is one thing, to claim a topic is out of bounds – or rather, criticism of a certain way of doing things is out of bounds – is another. If someone on the left was doing that it’d provoke cries of “Stalin!” “Political correctness gorn mad!!”

    Use of finite materials, urban design and technology is everyone’s business. I also think that it gets reframed by these commenters as “social commentary” when it suits them.

  • wizofaus says:

    I freely admit to disliking McMansions from an aesthetic point of view – driving through many newer developments invariably invokes a sinking feeling of ‘why would anyone want to live like this’ – where nothing is reachable by any means except car, where not a single house stands out as an example of architecture I can imagine anybody still valuing in 100 years time, and where scant regard is paid to the possibility of at least using trees and green space to break up the monotony of concrete blocks.
    Now if I knew for sure that the only ones paying the cost of choosing to live in such houses were the decision-makers themselves then I suppose I would have no reason to feel it was a problem I should concern myself with. But even if you leave out environmental considerations, I would think that even the children of the parents who choose to live in a such areas are ultimately going to suffer, growing up to be another car-dependent generation with minimal opportunities to interact in and around the ‘neighbourhood’ and deprived of the chance to thrive in an environment that shows a thoughtful blend of the natural landscape and quality housing.
    Sure, it’s perfectly reasonable to question to what degree it’s likely that further government involvement in the planning side of such developments is likely to actually produce a beneficial result, but we’re talking building the environment that the next 3 or 4 future generations of Australians are going to call home, and I for one would love to know that we had governments (at all levels) with some sort positive vision for how our cities and neighbourhoods could be.

  • lauredhel says:

    wizofaus – the super-expensive McMansion developments not that far from our place don’t even have paths at all on the non-arterial roads. So not only does the general layout/attitude discourage neighbourhood non-car travel, but it’s impossible for many people on wheels – wheelchairs, scooters, kids bikes, rollerskates – as well as for people who need a flat smooth surface to ambulate safely. So not only is the financial entry and maintenance requirement huge, but there’s a big No Crips Allowed, And You Better Not Have Visible Kids sign as well.

  • Pedro says:

    LOL, at 215 sqm they’re not McMansions. You need to check the build cost comparison between a middle class mcmansion and an apartment. Yes, more roads and pipes are built/laid, but the cost comparison is still frightening and increasing inner city density also has high services costs because you have to amplify the existing infrastructure by digging it up and relaying.

    Complaints about street layout are not complaints about mcmansions.

    “What it comes down to is: we’re criticising a mode of planning and building, and being told we’re not allowed to claim one way of building is objectively better than another, in case we offend the lower/middle class (that is, most of us).”

    Actually you are criticising other people’s taste. But that’s ok, we all do it.

  • paul walter says:

    ‘The behaviour is no longer any of your business’.
    What an egregiously arrogant statement. As I understand it, the blogger has at least one kid. If the anti ecology asses and their myriad media and press misinformers have their way, will there be any attempt to follow rational science in dealing with enviro issues?
    If the only future is denial and the scientists do turn out to be right, what do you think her response to that attitude is going to be?
    Secondly, rational people have an interest in not seeing outlandish fantasy accepted as dogma by the public, if you accept fantasies like Mocktons via Murdoch and co, you are just risable, but more seriously you are encouraging a slippery slope, as to delusionalism and denialism.
    As for the Marie Antoinette turn, “let them eat cake” as to the rest of the world and billions of people; that’s really coming the raw prawn (before they’re all fished out, that is!).

  • derrida derider says:

    What are you talking about Paul? What’s climate change denialism got to do with this topic? Anyway FWIW I vote Green mostly because of climate change – it’s important enough to outweigh the garbage they have in some other policy areas.

    Once again, address sustainability issues with policies that put a price on sustainability. And BTW don’t just lazily assume that a different lifestyle is less sustainable than yours – use evidence, not your prejudiced distaste for people you wish to feel superior to.

    This “but will no-one think of the children” stuff is mostly used by tories as an excuse to dictate to the children’s parents. Lefties should be careful when invoking it; especially be very bloody careful of invoking it without any actual evidence.

    PS: Marie Antoinette never actually said that. She is supposed to have said “Perhaps they could have brioche”, but we only have her enemies’ word that she said any such thing.

  • wizofaus says:

    dd, that’s not really responding to my substantive point though – if nothing else, does it not concern you that children growing up in such developments are likely to become car-dependent, with all the negative externalities that implies?
    My other expressed concerns are admittedly more subjective and there’s probably 100 things that are far more damaging to kids than growing up surrounded by bland architecture. As it is, having given the whole topic a bit more thought, I don’t actually think there’s much reason for governments to get too much more involved in the planning/zoning of these developments – it would be more productive to focus on what’s necessary to ensure that there are affordable alternatives for those that want them.

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