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Conference paper

"A lot of hardship, there’s nothing there at all"

Experiencing premature housing development in postwar Sydney

29 Jun 2016


During the fifteen years following World War Two, thousands of aspiring home-owners on Sydney’s suburban fringe lived in residential subdivisions without basic household amenities and public infrastructure. This situation was the result of weak planning regulations governing the subdivision and sale of property at the same time as a national housing shortage created unprecedented demand for residential land. Aspiring homeowners took advantage of the sale of subdivided agricultural land to purchase an affordable allotment and, in many cases, built a temporary dwelling while they saved to pay for a permanent cottage on site. Living without services was challenging. Households relied on makeshift methods of cooking, lighting and heating, and compromised on comfort and privacy. Once a permanent home was achieved, usually after a number of years, residents still had to contend with a lack of public infrastructure such as sewerage and storm-water pipes, sealed roads, all-weather footpaths, and street signage. Premature subdivision of land may have been officially frowned upon by state and local planning authorities but, in this adaptive incremental way, many Sydney residents acquired basic shelter and moved into home-ownership. This paper describes residents’ experiences of living in “prematurely developed” areas of the Shire of Hornsby on the northern fringe of Sydney. Against the historical backdrop of this underresearched mode of early post-war housing, the paper seeks to recover, understand and convey through their own words the resilience and sacrifices of a generation of suburban temporary dwelling residents in the 1940s and 1950s.

Publication Details
Source Title: 
Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2016
Published year only: 
Subject Areas
Geographic Coverage