Recording the History of St Albans' Half Houses

Our streets and suburbs are changing. At Council’s Ordinary Meeting on 21 May 2019 it resolved to commission a study to record the history and appearance of the St Albans half-houses so that their local value can be understood, shared and appreciated.

What is a half-house?

The St Albans half-houses were built around 1947-1968. They were sold as temporary homes soon after the end of World War 2 when there was a serious housing shortage in Melbourne. For the people that came to St Albans during this time they were the most affordable option to buy a home.

St Albans was previously part of the former Cities of Keilor and Sunshine. These Councils allowed construction of the half-houses on the understanding that the rest of the house would be built later.

The St Albans half-houses usually have 2 or 3 rooms and many were constructed by their owners prior to services and roads being available. The half-houses were built using locally available materials and were usually bought by newly arrived European migrants.Some half-houses are still visible today, however, in most cases the half-house is now attached to the back of a new house and is used as a kitchen, laundry or bathroom.

Some half-houses have been relocated on the block, behind or next to a new house. In this situation the half-house may be used as a shed, bungalow or storage area.

  
Ribarow house Henry Street 1952

  
  Ribarow house Henry Street 1960's
                                                                                                                                                              

Why are half-houses important?

The half-houses are a big part of the lives and memories of many post-war migrants and their children. They are an important part of the storey of St Albans and its diverse community. The half-houses show us the difficulties experienced by the first generation of post-war migrants in St Albans.

They are also important as a type of housing that was intended to be temporary in order to increase the supply of housing in the post-war period. The St Albans half-houses are unusual because there are now only a few known examples still in their original condition.

What information did Council want?

Council sought information about half houses in the municipality (either fully or partially intact), with a focus on St Albans.

Council wanted to know:

  • How were they constructed?
  • Who lived in these houses and what were they like to live in?
  • What was their role in the development of St Albans?
  • Anything else about personal experience or knowledge of the half-houses.

Council would also sought ideas on how the information gathered about the St Albans half-houses could be shared and celebrated within St Albans and with the broader community.

How will this information be used?

The final report will be presented to Council and include recommendations on how to inform the community about the value of these houses and celebrate their role in the development of St Albans.

It's not Council’s intent to apply any heritage protection to these structures. Council does however want to informally acknowledge their role and contribution to the development of St Albans.

Find out more

For more information please contact Council’s Strategic Planning Unit strategicplanning@brimbank.vic.gov.au or phone 9249 4000.

Photo Credit: Copyright Joseph Ribarow