What homemakers (women) want

In my role with Housing Alternatives, I have been contacted by a few builders – all men  – who see themselves as providing low cost accommodation for women. Some are clearly genuine, and really do want to help and some are – well – seeing this as another way of rorting government dodges to make massive profits.

But whichever group they belong to, I have found it almost impossible to communicate what I think women want – and need – and why these things are a fundamental right that we should not give away for expediency.

The most frequent design I have presented to me is straight rows of small or tiny houses, similar to caravan parks, with no fencing and no concept of private space. Sometimes they are refurbished motels on busy major highways with no consideration to ongoing living needs.

When I give them my checklist, they tell me that we cannot afford this. In other words, they are telling me that women who have spent a lifetime in service to our communities do not deserve basic safe housing. I think we do!  It costs very little more to replace bad design with good design and this is what we are proposing.

Here is a list of what I think women – homemakers – want.


  • Safety. This is more than having a lock on your door. It’s about feeling safe when outside as well as inside. It includes not being exposed to routine sexist behaviour, such as being leered at or listening rude comments, or otherwise harassed, near your home.
  • Ability to keep animals. This can be critical for solo women without family, whose animal companion IS their family.
  • Sense of community. Women are increasingly choosing, where they have the option, to live in a private space but as part of the broader community. Some choose to live with only women, and some prefer a mixed demographic, but the sense of being part of a community is essential.
  • Adaptable to age-in-place considerations. This means that bathrooms should be wet rooms, steps should be replaceable by suitable ramps, etc.

Environmental and social sustainability

  • High environmental rating of buildings.
  • Solar passive orientation and solar power generation. Both of these keep ongoing living costs down and add to environmental sustainability.
  • Water collection. This is either for watering grounds or as chemical free drinking water depending on safety of local rainwater.
  • Common building for meetings and other community ventures, including localised businesses suitable for the residents of the community.
  • Common vegetable gardens.
  • Common orchard trees.


  • Close to all essential services. Easy access to medical services is critical for some.
  • Walking distance or with easy to access public transport for basic shopping. There will come a time for all of us when our old car finally dies and we cannot replace it, or when health issues mean we should not be driving. So public transport to a decent shopping centre is a critical factor in choosing a location.

Inside space

  • Storage space. There must be room to store items that are used seasonally or occasionally.
  • Room for a carer or overnight guests. There should be private space for guests to stay overnight.
  • Split system heating and cooling.  This can be a cost effective option particularly if the houses are generating their own power.
  • Dishwasher. This is only necessary for a small part of the demographic, but might also be a useful water conservation tool.
  • Space for washing machine in bathroom or garage. There can also be a laundry area in the community building for those who want to use it, but older or disabled people cannot be expected to cart their laundry from their home to a central facility.
  • Spacious “wet room” bathrooms. These need to either start as or be adaptable to age-in-place requirements.  The sole internal access to bathroom is never from a bedroom.
  • High ceilings, good ventilation.  This is particularly important with small rooms.

Outside space

  • Safe and private outside space. Safe and private go together.  Women do not like to sit outside where they can either be watched, or forced to engage with passers by, so some kind of private outside space is required out of line of sight of any other residents. They also require private space to dry laundry. A well designed inside/outside space is ideal.
  • Protection for car from weather extremes. This can be a car port, but if safety is an issue in the location, it needs to be a garage with direct access to the house. A garage can double as storage space.

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16 thoughts on “What homemakers (women) want

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  1. I think that I will be able to design houses like this, and do it affordably, in a couple of years. There is so much of a need for this! I need to complete my f first project (for my own first home), learn from that practical experience, and then I can put my efforts into making the ‘women’s wish list’ a reality. Thanks for your efforts Christine in compiling this list.

  2. I live in rented accommodation and the washing machine is in the kitchen next to sink- works well. I only have a single sink and that is a bother. No dishwasher and I don’t mind That, however a double sink is essential really.

  3. That’s a great list of things. I would dare to say that in our Artist Residency Tasmania, we tick most of the boxes. From privacy, being able to lock your room to the fact that shared spaces are provided for communal living. We even have a large (300 seater) dance hall and artist studio spaces! If any of you are interested, please contact me, or check our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/artiststasmania

  4. * And a double sink so that chemicals in dishwashing liquid are not left on your china to be consumed with possible negative health results.
    * Plenty of power points to accommodate all of those electrical appliances: computer, tv, DVD player, CD player, record player & receiver, bluetooth, vacuum cleaner, lamps, phone charger, juicer, coffee maker, kettle, toaster, microwave, fridge, washing machine, dish washer … the list is endless!
    * A clothes line that is partly under cover … for rainy days and to avoid fading, and partly in the sunshine for sheets and towels.

    Just thinking on my feet. 🙂

  5. * I like the idea of rent to buy so that eventually you might own your little bit of paradise.
    * Body corporate fees only if absolutely necessary and must be kept to a minimum.
    * A small private deck … could be made private just with shrubbery or trees. Us Australians like a bit of outside life where we can listen to the birds, watch the wildlife and have a barbecue.
    * 2 bedroom so we can have occasional visitors.
    * Lots of light and fresh air = glass and windows.

  6. Looking good. I don’t need a dishwasher, though I might like one. If you have an injury/illness doing the dishes by hand may be a challenge. A friend of mine who had a stroke only has one hand to work with. there are small dishwashers that fit on a bench that work well – you don’t need a big one.

    Room to use a wheely walker. Maybe you won’t need one, but it may be important.

    I’m not a great fan of air conditioners – prefer ceiling fans for summer – must have a remote.

    Security button/s of some sort is important.

    Externally – paths that are safe/easy for wheelchair/wheely walkers.

    Undercover for car is important, otherwise they deteriorate more quickly. Adding more cost.

  7. Perhaps the communal area could be hired out for local community groups and the community garden likewise may be partly maintained by volunteers or schoolchildren.

    An outdoor area with native trees and shrubs (to encourage birdlife) and seating/gazebos for family picnics/gatherings would be a welcome addition.

  8. Great design principles for conceptual design. Sounds like an architect and landscape architect needs to interpret for the builders [builders build what they are shown and what they are comfortable with] . Im guessing there is no funding for this but perhaps pro bono services could be attracted?

  9. An adaptive recreational space. A library/ reading nook, office/study, craft room or perhaps a music or home theatre room in each home.

    I’d love it if there was a village mentality and ambiance. Small dwellings that represent individual personal style could easily be provided for. Communal gardens / orchard / greenhouse as well as perhaps a smaller personal garden per home would enable more or less engaging personalities opportunities to collaborate or not.

    There should definitely be a council approved, rentable, commercial kitchen facility so that ladies could legally prepare and bake food items and create food or cooking micro businesses. A cultural hub or recreational facility might be a good place for this, along with art and craft group meetings and perhaps pop-up shops/services, e.g. Hairdresser, podiatrist, nutritionist, physiotherapist services or perhaps a library outreach branch. I’d love for there to be stimulating learning and social activities like learn French cooking or something.

    A cafe and garden Centre or perhaps a garden center with cafe would be well patronized, I’m sure.

  10. As an energy saving idea I’d like a shared laundry and don’t need a dishwasher. I’d also like a communal studio/co working space that faces onto the street so we can be part of the community.

    Older women are Assets Not Burdens and have a range of social capital and skills that are needed even within a street.

    I’d like small house designs on a block that could have 3 to 6 women living on it. I have many social justice and artist women friends who would love to grow older together and have private/communal spaces.

    I’m also all for different forms of financing that could include some form of equity financing or long term/life time secure rental. There are so many international examples of different forms of cooperative living and how to make it all work.

    1. Shared laundry is fine for some, but many are not able to carry their washing distances to use a communal laundry. Old people, sick people and tired people have to be catered for in the overall design. Fit people in affordable housing are a minority.

      It was a few disabled or challenged people who suggested the dishwasher, and as they are water saving compared to hand washing dishes, they are not such a luxury. So I included them.

      As you will have read, there is a common building on the overall plan, and it is outward facing with visitor car parking. It can serve different purposes depending on the overall theme of the development.

      The financing model and the management model is not dealt with in this article, but you will find them under “Our Projects”, if you are interested.

  11. Light and free flow air essential.
    In the Uk, washing machines fit compactly under a bench in the kitchen. Works well.
    The Security of a permanent living space.
    I agree with all your other living considerations.

    1. Yes, I have lived in a house where the washing machine was in the kitchen and it worked perfectly.
      I also agree about light and air flow = lots of glass/windows. No one wants to live in a house that smell a bit musty.
      Permanency is a must!

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