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The Sydneysider’s dream home goal post just shifted

By Danielle Banton

And what the experts had to say about it moving forward.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes, recently attended and spoke at an Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW event, where he stated that The Great Australian Dream of a quarter-acre suburban detached house is ‘unjust’ and that we need to find solutions around the estimated population growth expected to happen in Sydney in the next few years in order to accommodate those families and individuals looking to buy their own property.

Sydney is faced with a scarcity of land and geographical boundaries and this along with the figures released by the government detailing the population growth expectation (as 6,2 million people are expected to be living in Sydney by 2020) are the causes of this dream being unraveled.

There were many opinions on the matter as to what would be the best way forward. Stokes explained, “In 1975 … Sydney was a homogenous sprawl of terracotta roofs. To buy a house it cost four times the average salary – today, the same home costs at least 12 times the average salary.” He went on to say that  “we need to change some of the cultural view of what the Great Australian Dream is, it’s not just a detached home in the suburbs.”

In Sydney’s suburbs, there are many homes that could easily be converted into terraces that could house double if not more the amount of people living in one space and while Shadow Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Michael Daley supported the argument, agreeing that there is a strong demand for terraces in Sydney.

Craig Pontey supports what is known as filling in the “missing middle” – a concept applied in many places in the world but mostly Europe. “For Sydney to cope with its population growth, there needs to be more options on the market,” he said.

“At the moment we’ve got two peak strategies for new development, either greenfield land or apartments and there needs to be much more variety than that.”

Essentially, we need to understand that there is space in Sydney for low, medium and high-density developments that blend well and still allow for a suburban feel while providing access to amenities.

he explained that “Bondi and Bondi Junction are great examples of where this can be seen working effectively. There are certainly ways to accommodate the population growth in Sydney while still maintaining the charm of the area.”

RPS senior economic planner Liam Walsh was of the same opinion as Pontey. However he warned that planning conditions in the many middle ring areas would need to be changed to enable this type of medium-density development.

As it is currently, projections of medium-density dwelling approvals are dropping. In 2000, 27 per cent of properties approved were in this category. By 2020, this is expected to be just 13 per cent, Savills’ Residential head of research Sophie Chick said.

She continued by saying that “In theory, high-rise and medium-rise with appropriate product mix should be part of the affordability solution as we should encourage housing where industry and infrastructure already exists or is being developed or planned.”

Chris Johnson’s, chief executive of Urban Taskforce, opinion however was that a medium density solution was not going to solve Sydney’s problems. While people don’t necessarily want to live in taller buildings but “Where is there available land? If we don’t seriously address land usage through height we’re just going to run into big problems.”

Irrespective of everyone’s different opinions, one thing is for sure, we need to find a cost effective, responsible and sustainable way forward if we’re going to manage the intake of people correctly.

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