Bernard Salt.

Bernard Salt. Photo: Paul Jones

Canberra's building industry needed to wake up to the cultural demands of the national capital's fastest growing tribes - the Chinese and the Indians - when it designed future homes, demographer Bernard Salt warned on Thursday.

He suggested one of the biggest challenges over the next decade would be providing affordable housing to the ''entitled'' Generation Ys as they moved out of the family home and asked ''Where's my affordable house?''

He also questioned the focus on building separate houses on separate blocks when couples and singles were the fastest-growing households in Canberra.

Mr Salt told the ACT branch of the Property Council of Australia Canberra was becoming an ''Anglo-Asian-fusion'' community.

The latest census showed outside Australia, the most common country of birth for Canberra residents was Britain, followed by China and India.

This made Canberra unique in that other capital cities had New Zealanders, Greeks and Italians featuring more prominently.

''The difference between the ACT and the other major markets in Australia is that there are no Mediterranean influences. You can't see Greeks or Italians in this top [10] list. Not first-generation Greeks or Italians,'' he said.

Mr Salt said Chinese-born people in Canberra had increased 86 per cent between 2006 and last year, while those born in India had increased 115 per cent.

''Do you understand the cultural preferences and predilections, if you like, of these new forces in the ACT?

''In terms of delivering a property, do you understand the principles of feng shui?

''Do you understand the Hindu preference to have the cook-top in the kitchen facing east? … the Hindu preference not to have the bedhead facing west, which is the way they bury their dead?

''These cultural predispositions that we have grasped in Melbourne and Sydney for the Mediterranean populations we need to learn very quickly in terms of engaging the Chinese and Indian populations in Canberra,'' Mr Salt said

The president of the India Australia Association of Canberra, Raj Satija, said the ancient art of vastu shastra did influence the way a house was organised.

People wanted to cook facing the east where the sun rose because ''that gives positive energy'' and gave the food ''greatest value''.

A bed shouldn't face the west, he said, because that was the direction of hell. The most auspicious location of the house was the north-east corner where praying was done.

On other issues, Mr Salt said if he were a politician he would champion the cause of how Generation Y could access affordable housing as there was a surge in the population aged 30 to 39 in Canberra over the next decade.

''It's going to strike a chord with a major segment of the market,'' he said.

The census also showed that separate houses comprised 41 per cent of the additional dwellings built between 2006 and last year in Canberra but over the same time families represented only 27 per cent of the increased population while singles and couples represented 59 per cent of the increase.

''Couples and singles don't need separate houses on separate blocks of land. What you're building is actually different to the demand drivers,'' Mr Salt said, adding there should be a move towards more semi-detached and unit dwellings.