Perth architect challenges affordable housing norm

Fremantle-based architect, David Barr, has challenged the way the market thinks about affordable and desirable residential housing for Generation Y.

Following the launch of Landcorp’s Gen Y Demonstration Housing project and his concept of ‘The Step House’ late last month, David’s work showcases an innovative solution for sustainable, flexible and cost-effective housing.

The Step House consists of three interlocking one bedroom, one bathroom strata titled apartments on a compact 250m2 block and David says his key focus was to provide quality housing that remains in the realm of affordability for young people.

“I have designed a product that can be easily replicated at other sites and provide a strong solution to the issue of affordability amongst our younger generation.

“The concept of the units is that they are in a great location, are well priced and are adaptable.

“I wanted to challenge what is achievable when cost, sustainability and community are priorities equally,” he said.

David said many young buyers were forced to discount key areas of Perth they would like to live having instead to look to outer suburbs where the market was more affordable.

“The Step House has been designed to balance the trade off between location and the lifestyle they desire and the size and type of house that our younger generation can afford.

“The homes are modest in size and when first built are also raw in materials and finish – allowing flexibility in how the space is used.

“Critically, The Step House concept is also flexible in that it can, when finances allow, be adapted in that people can purchase adjoining units to move into and make into one larger home,” he said.

The Step House was based around a standardised core wet area and kitchen and each unit has been strata titled to allow individual ownership of private spaces and a shared common area such as productive gardens and gathering spaces.

“It is a great solution to enable our younger generation to get a foot on the property ladder in a place they want to live and grow with it,” David said.

Key sustainability features are also a strong part of David’s design. The house is constructed with light framed timber framing, thermal insulation, and has been built using low maintenance materials. It is also solar passive in design and each apartment receives natural light and has cross-ventilation.

David said he felt the Perth market was ripe for this kind of development. “Environmentally sustainable, affordable housing in locations that are walkable is needed.

“There is a missing middle of medium density housing where all we are seeing are low density single family homes or high density apartments, with little choice in between.

“Step House, also known as the Gen Y Housing project, is an excellent demonstration of a project that bridges the gap between the single house and the large apartment block, providing stealth density in medium density areas that integrates well with the streetscape.”

For more information about David Barr Architects and the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project visit

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