Conference paper
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For most young families, the ‘Australian dream’ of living in their own suburban detached house is increasingly out of reach without relocating to the remote metropolitan fringe. Yet some have been able to achieve this in less remote locations by purchasing old houses that were built to the standards of earlier generations, demolishing these houses, and building new, larger and more modern detached dwellings instead. This practice is known as ‘knockdown-rebuild’ (KDR). This paper examines aspects of the KDR process in Sydney, focusing on the replacement of older houses with new ones and of older residents with younger families. It raises the question of whether this process can be seen as marking the beginnings of a new ‘neighbourhood life-cycle’ in ageing suburbs, and thus in a wider sense the beginnings of a ‘generation shift’ in a housing market characterised by severe inter-generational inequities. We offer the term ‘gen-X-trification’ to describe this process of neighbourhood change in areas with considerable activity of KDR. The term alludes to both the prominence of Generation X (born in the early 1960s to mid 1970s) in driving this phenomenon and to similarities with gentrification. Gentrification and KDR combine both demographic change in a neighbourhood with the rehabilitation of ageing housing stock through practices of reinvestment by incoming residents whose incomes are generally higher than the residents they replace (Pinnegar et al. 2010). The paper also points to several important distinctions between gentrification and this newer and more scattered process of gen-X-trification which does not necessarily involve involuntary displacement of lower-income residents.

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