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The curse of the McMansion

By Valerie Yule - posted Thursday, 24 November 2011

Mining and other industries are appealing for skilled and semiskilled migrant workers. Our millions of unemployed are not suitable. We have not trained enough apprentices in these trades – our youth is all hunched over computers it seems. But how many skilled and semiskilled workers are building McMansions? At least a dozen have been across the road every day for over a year building the McMansion in our street.

Our McMansion contributes tremendously to the GDP. It uses workers, it uses resources, and it employs about a dozen contractors. In demolishing the lovely house previously on the block, in making all sorts of tries and retries, in cutting down the previously 'heritage' trees – all this contributes to our Economy. But it does not contribute one skerrick to our real wealth. All those resources, all those workmen, all those draftsmen, could have been used for better things.

Our McMansion demonstrates to our street that some people are more powerful than others. The neighbours were perfectly willing to give permission for a second storey to be built onto the nice house next door; as soon as that was under their belt, the future McMansion owners had pulled down the nice house, and mapped out a giga-house that took almost all of two blocks. There is hardly any space around the house for a garden or recreational space or even a clothesline.


What sort of permits do our housing regulators require of it? It is reported to be 190 squares, and this is credible. It looks like a university college – for five people. It has large high-ceilinged rooms, a dark roof, no eaves, and no passive solar considerations. It towers above its neighbours, taking their light. For over a year, it has given them noise that starts usually about 7.30 – noise of bulldozers, concrete mixers, the whine of scrapers, and the music that the workers inflict on the neighbours. Trucks, vans and cars crowd the road and nature strips. Litter spreads around. Every week there is a skip-full of rubbish – or the equivalent of a skip - beautiful off cuts, unwanted pieces of everything used to make the house, empty cans for paint and plaster, cardboard containers. It could all have built another house. Instead, the landfill of the councils is filling up.

Once the McMansion is built, it must be maintained. All those big rooms must be cleaned, heated, and cooled. Central heating and air conditioning will be a big expense. Perhaps the owners will go broke. Perhaps McMansions will become a drug on the marker, with a carbon tax or its equivalent to pay. The fashion may change and it will no longer be a mark of status. Perhaps it will no longer be an investment. Perhaps it will be a mark of irresponsibility. Perhaps it will be pulled down and an economic sustainable building put up instead. More waste of resources.

Building this McMansion does not even give the usual excuse for rebuilding on a site – making more units, or fitting in more people. A family of five will live here – having spent probably a million dollars or so, that could have gone on useful creation.

This is not the first or the last McMansion in our street. Another block has just been moonscaped. What this will do to the rates of the modest homes that make up the rest of the street must give us pause.

Come on, mining magnates! Take your workforce from the hundreds of men working on our McMansions! You are our only hope, for the little people can protest in vain.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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